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Thursday, 19 February 2009

Retiring DADHC D-G calls for disabled care levy

Adele Horin
Sydney Morning Herald, February 19, 2009

A tax levy should be imposed on all Australians to fund lifelong care of people with severe disabilities, the state's chief disabilities bureaucrat says.

Brendan O'Reilly, director-general of the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care, has called for a levy, similar to Medicare, to be in place within four years.

"It's wrong that a person who is born with a health problem, say a hole in the heart, has a system that guarantees them access to services, but a person who is born with, or acquires, a disability does not," he said.

Mr O'Reilly, who will retire in seven weeks, has run the country's biggest disability agency for five years. Speaking at a disabilities forum, he said his views were "personal" and did not represent government policy.

He said 6 to 8 per cent of Australians had severe or profound disabilities and most taxpayers would be willing to pay a small levy for their lifelong care. "My experience is that Australians want people who've suffered disabilities through no fault of their own to be well cared for and given opportunities."

His call coincides with a recommendation by the Federal Government's National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission for a Denticare income levy of 0.75 per cent.

Mr O'Reilly said Australia had insurance schemes for the lifelong care of people who acquired a disability as a result of a car accident and, through WorkCover, there was support for people who were injured at work.

But people born with a disability, or who acquired it through sport, leisure or an accident at home, "have to fight for every service, and if they can eventually navigate the service system, there is still no guarantee their needs will be met".

The NSW Government has faced abiding criticism over the lack of supported accommodation for people with profound intellectual disabilities.

Having starved the area of funds for more than a decade, the Government in 2006 boosted funding by $1.3 billion over a five-year period.

Mary Lou Carter, of the Carers Alliance, said that in the past two years only 51 of the more than 16,800 people who needed supervised accommodation and were living with elderly parents had been accommodated in a group home.

"Governments are loath to impose an extra tax but it's abundantly clear the need has not been met," she said.

In an interview, Mr O'Reilly said he had told his wife that if he fell from a ladder when cleaning the gutters and was seriously disabled, she should bundle him into the car and roll it into the house "because there's a system that covers car accidents".

Mary Lou Carter's comment on the article:

The most important consideration to any levy for disability care is to ensure that it is quarantined for that specific purpose ...... Remember the water levy .....

Previous posts on disability insurance schemes:

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