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Major gap in disability and aged care reform


Major gap in disability and aged care reform

MORE than 80 per cent of Australians think the age ceiling of 65 to be covered by the national disability insurance scheme is unfair.


However, according to the national survey to be presented to Gillard government ministers tomorrow, only 3 per cent of respondents were even aware that people over 65 were excluded from the scheme.


Disability Reform Minister Jenny Macklin and Mental Health Minister Mark Butler are scheduled to attend the roundtable meeting in Adelaide, which will include representatives of National Seniors Australia and the Macular Disease Foundation Australia.


The Galaxy poll, commissioned by the MDFA and conducted on February 1-3 with a national sample of 1052 people, asked people if the NDIS applied to people of all ages or excluded people after a certain date.


Almost half - 47 per cent - of respondents admitted up front they didn't know. A further 38 per cent incorrectly believed it applied to all people.

Of the 15 per cent who knew people were excluded after a certain age, only 22 per cent when further questioned correctly said exclusions started at 65, or 3 per cent of all those surveyed.


When respondents were told people who acquired a disability at 65 and over were excluded from the NDIS, 82 per cent said it was unfair, 14 per cent said it was fair, and 4 per cent didn't know.


This finding held across all ages, gender and states, although the proportion saying it was unfair was slightly higher in Queensland (90 per cent).


Five NDIS trials will begin in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia from July.


MDFA chief executive Julie Heraghty said her organisation had been raising the issue with the government for more than a year and it needed to be addressed as a priority.


"The latest survey results reinforce the fact that virtually no one in the community is aware of the details of the exclusion from the NDIS if you acquire a disability at the age of 65 and over," she said. "We were alarmed to see that only 3 per cent of the population knew about the exclusion cut-off if you acquire a disability at the age of 65 and over.


"This very important issue is slipping under the community's radar and falling between a major gap in disability and aged care reform."


The NSA has launched a blistering attack on the NDIS, claiming it legislates for "blatant age discrimination". Chief executive Michael O'Neill said National Seniors would campaign relentlessly for the cut-off age to be altered.


A spokeswoman for Ms Macklin said the minister was meeting with a wide range of people and groups as it developed the NDIS.


"The feedback the government receives from consultations, as well as the Senate committee inquiry currently under way, are important parts of helping us to design the scheme," she said.


The government says it is still working through and discussing with stakeholders the complex interaction between the NDIS and the aged care system.


The Senate inquiry report, due to be handed down in March, will be another important element of their considerations.

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