May 2, 2019
A FORMER chief magistrate says the possible demise of the BrainInjury Association of Tasmania could result in more jail sentences for Tasmanians with acquired brain injuries.
Retired chief magistrate of Tasmania Michael Hill said the services of the Brain Injury Association were vital from a sentencing perspective, as the support allowed for a person with an acquired brain injury to be treated in the community rather than being sent to jail.
“If support is not available then the chances of rehabilitation in the community are reduced and you might have to put a person in prison, and that would be unfortunate,” he said.
“But if there are no treatment options, then there’s not much else you can do.”
The Brain Injury Association of Tasmania is one of about 18 disability support and advocacy groups facing an uncertain future as their funding transitions from the State Government to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The peak organisation that looks after disability services in Tasmania has warned that up to 90,000 Tasmanians could be without their support service by the end of June, when state funding finishes.
National Disability Services state manager Will Kestin said groups were in jeopardy that “you would assume would be around forever” – such as the Epilepsy Association, The Royal Guide Dogs for the Blind Association ofTasmania and Multiple Sclerosis Limited.
The transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme has changed the responsibility of funding of specialist disability services and programs from states to the federal agency.
There are about 18 Tasmanian groups identified as at risk under the new model, because they will have to compete for periodic NDIS grants rather than receive state funding.
Mr Kestin said the groups were vital, as they filled in the gaps for the bulk of Tasmanians living with a disability who are not covered by an NDIS package.
“About 100,000 people in Tasmania identify as dealing with a disability, but only 10,600 are eligible for the NDIS. The remaining 80,000 to 90,000 Tasmanians who will not get coverage through the NDIS will continue to need the support of these organisations,” he said.
One of the at-risk support services, Brain Injury Association of Tasmania, has warned that its closure after 20 years of service would result in a significant loss for the community.
Executive officer Deborah Byrne said the loss of the association could become a much larger expense for the government.
“What the Tasmanian Government has failed to realise is that, while the organisations will disappear, the problems will not,” she said.
“A person with brain injury, for example, who doesn’t receive support in the community to address their issue, will appear with multiple issues some where else in the system.”
Ms Byrne said that without support these people were likely to appear in “the revolving door of prison” and services providing support for homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse and mental health services.
Labor’s shadow minister for disabilities Jo Siejka said up to 18 disability and support organisations were at risk once their State Government funding dried up on June 30.
Article by ANNE MATHER, Published in The Mercury Newspaper May 2nd 2019
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