Reposted from a story from Australia from the Network Syndicated news.com News
The federal government is set to part fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme by requiring those whose disability is acquired through an injury to sue for compensation. Source: HWT Image Library
Legislation underpinning the NDIS introduced into parliament last week says the government will then require any compensation a person is awarded for care and support be handed back to cover the cost of any NDIS services.
If a person refuses the direction to take the legal action their care and support under the NDIS will be “suspended”, the legislation says.
The measure has been described as “disconcerting” and against the fundamental no-fault principle of the NDIS by former AMA president Dr Andrew Pesce, who advised the Productivity Commission which drafted the NDIS, and now advises the government on aspects of the scheme.
“Everyone was working on the idea that with an NDIS we were moving from having to sue to a statutory no-fault scheme,” he said.
“This is a very unexpected development and if it goes through it will be a fundamental change to what people were talking about,” he said.
Greens Senator and disability spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said the clauses are “potentially quite contentious” and she will be having the concept closely examined as part of a Senate inquiry into the legislation.
“The way it is worded at the moment I think could leave open a loophole in the future to forcing people into expensive, destructive drawn out legal cases,” she said.
“This is stressful for the individual and the family,” she said.
Opposition disability spokesman Senator Mitch Fifield said he had “serious reservations” about a government agency having the capacity to compel an individual to take legal action.
“It may be appropriate for the individual to be able assign to the NDIS agency their right to take legal action on their behalf, but it is a big step for there to be a requirement that a vulnerable individual take legal action,” he said.
He too wants the issue examined closely by a Senate inquiry.
A spokeswoman for Disability Reform Minister Jenny Macklin said the legislation ensures that people with disability don’t miss out on opportunities to claim compensation where reasonable.
“We don’t want to create an incentive for employers, for example, to soften their approach to workplace safety because they will no longer have to pick up the bill for any injuries or disabilities caused at work,” she said.
“This is not an either or. It’s about giving people access to the scheme and any compensation they are entitled to and people can still be covered by the scheme while pursuing compensation.”
It is expected a person will only be asked to pursue compensation where there is a reasonable prospect that a claim would be successful and where taking that action would not cause an unreasonable financial burden.
National Disability Services chief Dr Ken Baker said the clauses are intended to make sure someone who is entitled to funding for their disability outside the NDIS gets that money.
“It’s so that other systems don’t transfer their costs and obligations onto the NDIS,” he said.
However he says the legislation would have to ensure that people who could not afford legal action were not forced into it and the stress and hardship a legal case would have on a persons disability should also be considered.
In its blueprint for the NDIS the Productivity Commission was critical of using the common law to pursue compensation, showing that up to 70 per cent of the payout often ended up covering legal costs.
Many accident victims had to wait between 4 and 23 years to get their compensation, it found.
Over 20,000 Australians currently suffer from a catastrophic injury and another 1000 are injured each year.
Almost half these injuries are due to motor vehicle accidents, eight per cent are work related, 11 per cent arise from medical incidents and the remaining 32 per cent are due to sporting injuries, criminal assault or accidents in the home.
While four states – NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and the Northern Territory – have no fault motor vehicle accident schemes that could provide compensation without an ugly legal battle, other states do not.
The government is still examining the Productivity Commission’s call for a national no fault National Injury Insurance Scheme that would cover these types of injury funded from insurance premiums