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The National Disability Agency, the body that controls the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the Government Office of Hearing Services are developing plans to move certain client groups from the Australian Government Hearing Services Program to the NDIS.
There has also been a recent announcement on the potential change of ownership of the Australian Government hearing services provider, Australian Hearing.
Both of these issues have the potential to have a detrimental effect on the outcomes of the most vulnerable client groups unless certain safeguards are put into place to ensure that the quality and standards of service delivery are not compromised through changes to existing arrangements.
We are disappointed that the Government is wedded to the creation of a contestable market for hearing services that had been put in place by the previous government. The implementation of the NDIS will see contestability introduced to paediatric hearing services in Australia for the first time. Australian Hearing has been the sole provider of hearing services to Deaf and hard of hearing children for almost 70 years. The ability of the market to provide these services is untested which introduces areas of risk in terms of access, equity, and clinician skill, standards and service quality. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom investigated making paediatric hearing services contestable and decided against it as they could not find a sufficient number of providers willing to take on this client group. Additionally if the Government proceeds with the transfer of ownership of Australian Hearing to a consortium which includes an early intervention provider, the provision of independent advice in relation to early intervention services may be lost.
Deafness Forum of Australia has surveyed members and there was a very strong message from the families of children with hearing loss that they would rather forego the choice of provider in order to retain the high quality and trusted service they receive from Government-owned Australian Hearing.
Deafness Forum of Australia, the peak body representing the needs of Deaf and hard of hearing people – as well as Parents of Deaf Children, Deafness Council Western Australia, Aussie Deaf Kids and Deaf Australia – recently advised the Government of some of the specific areas of risk that could arise with the proposed changes, and offer suggestions to help ensure that client outcomes are not compromised. These recommendations relate to:
1.Infants diagnosed with hearing loss at birth and older children diagnosed with hearing loss
2.Services to adults with complex hearing rehabilitation needs
3.Provision of culturally sensitive programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients
4.Services to clients from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who require interpreter services
Read about other current issues including
- Deafness Forum of Australia offered its views to the Government’s review of the Medical Benefits Scheme
- Health warning - life threatening danger to children posed by button batteries
- National inquiry into employment discrimination against older Australians and Australians with disability
- Recommendations for improvements to Employment Assistance Fund
- Future of hearing services in Australia
- Future of Australian Hearing
- Unwelcome change to Veterans’ hearing health entitlements
- National practice standards for audiology
- TV captions regulations
- Hearing care for hospital patients
- Hearing crisis in Australia's aged care system
- Deaf culture is rich in language, the arts and community
- Safer buildings
- Abolish an unnecessary government charge
- Public rail wants exemptions from disability discrimination laws
- On-demand, real time captions and interpreters in Government shopfronts
- Replacement speech processors for pensioners aged over 26 years
- Inclusion in education