10522 – Individual submission
I would like specifically raise the issue of what I am coming to conclude is a systematic policy of discrimination against people with a hearing impairment. I use the term systematic as I am coming to conclude that this is a policy of the NDIA as a whole rather than the attitude of individual NDIA staff.
Please bear with me as I give some necessary background information. Prior to becoming a participant in the NDIS (due to the extent of my hearing impairment) I was, and continue to be, in receipt of a Carers Payment. This was due to the 24 hour care required by my partner (who is also a NDIS participant). Because I was/am in receipt of the Carers Payment I was provided with hearing aids from 2001 through the Australian Government Hearing Services Program. Under this program I was only entitled to “free” basic hearing aids with higher quality hearing aids being subsidised only to the extent of the cost of basic hearing aids – the difference being met by myself.
As my first “free” hearing became due to be replaced and as my hearing continued to deteriorate I found I needed higher quality hearing aids to provide the level of care my partner required -I will discuss the level of care she requires later in my submission – and so my last two sets of hearing I purchased, still prior to being in the NDIS, at considerable expense.
In August 2015 I received a letter from the Office of Hearing Services informing me that the expectation was that existing program clients under the age of 65, as I then was, would move to the NDIS. In 2017 when the NDIS was rolled out to the region I applied and became a participant in the NDIS.
Since then I have been involved in an ongoing dispute with the NDIA in an attempt to get more suitable hearing aids (my top of the range hearing aids having long since reached their use by date. I have a thick file of communications, review requests, Occupational Therapist reports, etc which can be provided if desired. However, I have come to conclude that the NDIA is applying the same financial criteria as the original Australian Government Hearing Services Program – that is it is determined to fund only the cost of basic hearing aids and will do everything it can to “justify” the rejection of more appropriate hearing aids irrespective of the merits of the application. I suspect this represents some sort of financial, and purely financial, consideration whereby transferring the hearing impaired from one government scheme to another should be a cost neutral exercise. By analogy it is as if the NDIA was determined to provide only manual wheelchairs, irrespective of individual needs, and if some one felt they needed a moterised one then they could pay the difference themselves. This how my dealings with the NDIA has left me feeling.
I will now briefly discuss why my role as a carer requires a level of hearing aid more appropriate than what the NDIA is prepared to fund. Again I would say that I have a thick file of correspondence and reports to support my case which I can make available to the inquiry. However, to summarise: In 1978 my partner,suffered a severe stroke which left her with a number of disabilities. Particularly relevant to this submission are severe limitations in movement and balance combined with epilepsy. While the epilepsy is controlled to the extent that grand-mals are rare, petit-mals still occur on average every 10 – 14 days. Although she is now largely confined to a wheelchair she is still very vulnerable transferring from wheelchair to bed, toilet, lounge chair etc. If she experiences a petit-mal in such circumstances she will have an uncontrolled fall and she has been hospitalised a number of times as a result of such falls. Unfortunately, if she experiences a petit-mal she has very limited warning and usually, as the seizure begins to take hold, begins to lose her capacity to loudly project her voice.
In such circumstances if I am to have any chance of responding quickly and effectively I need to maximise the liklihood of hearing her limited calls for help. This is why I need more appropriate hearing aids and this is what the NDIA refuses to acknowledge.
I feel that the NDIA devalues my role as a carer and shows an indifference to the potential dangers that my partner faces.