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09 February 2022

This week I have had the real privilege of speaking with a young man from Perth called Kenichi.

Kenichi is a 23-year-old man with Down's syndrome.

Like many of the people I meet with Down's, Kenichi is full of vitality and is living his life to the fullest, with thanks to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Kenichi lives with his mum and dad. He works part time at Coles, and he has a full social life filled with group activities.

His job at Coles has been revelatory for the young man and is only made possible by his family, Coles and, crucially, the supports he gets from the NDIS.

Without his NDIS funding and his carers, Kenichi would not be able to work and he would not be able to attend his social group activities.

It wouldn't be safe and that is his parents' number one priority. And rightly so.

To hear his story is heartbreaking.

As they told me, in March 2021, Kenichi's mum was called to a meeting with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), in which she was told was about a $300 shortfall to his plan.

She agreed to the meeting, but, when she arrived, she discovered that it was a surprise full review meeting for Kenichi's plan, seven months earlier than scheduled.

A total ambush.

An NDIS full plan review is a massive deal to participants, their families and their carers.

It is an opportunity for the NDIS participant and their carers to address any issues with plans, to seek more funding where needed, and to have their voice heard.

It can take months to prepare to ensure NDIS participants get to exert some choice and control over their lives.

The NDIS sprang the review on Kenichi's mum.

And despite the NDIS having no evidence to suggest anything had changed for Kenichi, his total NDIS support funding was cut by almost 50 per cent.

The family was given no opportunity to prepare for the meeting and there was no rationale provided to explain why his funding was cut.

It was a bureaucratic king hit.

Because of the cuts, Kenichi's parents had to make a choice between his ongoing community social activities or his part-time job where he spent two days a week.

They chose his work as this was a higher priority at the time for Kenichi. Despite filing a review, they have not heard back from the NDIA.

The family is disgusted the NDIA and its boss the Morrison Government can make drastic cuts with no explanation, and they are not alone.

To ensure Kenichi can attend his social activities, which are a critical part of his ongoing therapy and crucial to his mental health, his family must make some big, life-changing decisions.

Kenichi is just one of thousands of NDIS participants who have had their plans radically cut with no explanation, no procedural fairness and no notice. My office has been inundated by hordes of NDIS participants in the past year asking for urgent assistance after critical funding has been slashed, leaving people with disability without essential supports.

In the past two months alone, I have heard from hundreds of NDIS participants who are desperate for help.

Huge cuts are being made, with autistic children seemingly in the Morrison Government's direct line of fire.

Some participants, like Kenichi, have had funding cut by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Others have had necessary residential and assistive technology requests rejected.

The Morrison Government must come clean on the undeclared campaign to quietly slash the NDIS funds of people with disabilities across Australia.

As a result of the razor cuts campaign, parents are being forced to quit their jobs, sell their houses and, at worst, relinquish their children in order to ensure their ongoing care. Many parents are also being shamelessly asked why their child has not "got better", while others are being belittled in NDIS decisions that say the parents are not doing enough to help their child.

Imagine if the Morrison Government had to walk a mile in the shoes of these tired and exhausted parents and carers.

To say the NDIS, after eight years of Coalition Government, has issues is an understatement.

There have been too many heart-rending stories, too much victim blaming, and too much misery inflicted on people the scheme was meant to help.

Only a Labor Government will protect the NDIS and return it to the honour of the scheme's original intent a modest safety net for Australians who are profoundly and seriously disabled.


This was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday, 9 FEBRUARY 2022.