BE PREPARED: NDIS Readiness Advisor Trish McIvor with Early Childhood Intervention Australia’s, Brian Kirk at Tuesday’s Mallee Family Care NDIS information session held at the Mildura Church of Christ.

By JOHN DOOLEY

IN advance of the official Mallee region roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), local provider Mallee Family Care (MFC) is conducting a series of information sessions aimed at informing clients and their families of the impending changes to support services and putting their minds at ease in regard to any concerns they may have.

The first of these sessions was held on Tuesday at the Mildura Church of Christ, where several keynote speakers addressed the families of children birth to six-years-old with a disability, informing them of the new packages and services that will soon be available to them and answering their questions.

MFC Marketing and Fund-raising Manager, Cristiane Dean said her organisation really wanted to be able to prepare and inform the local community about the NDIS so that they have time and an understanding about how to make the transition to the new service support structures that will roll-out from January 1, 2019.

“Today’s information sessions are very much about that and we have some excellent speakers from MFC and outside specialist agencies presenting today,” she said.

“We are also going to have one-on-one sessions with our clients and for anyone else who needs information, our doors are open to talk about this – I think that’s our main message.

“Importantly we want to remove any anxiety people maybe having about the changes ahead and something new coming.”

MFC Early Childhood Intervention Service Key Worker and Acting Team Leader, Jane Collins was also involved with the organisation of the event reiterated the importance of the sessions.

“The main purpose of holding the sessions is to inform parents about the changes,” she said.

“There’s a lot of anxiety about where we are going to go with the NDIS and the changing situation and so we coordinated with Early Childhood Intervention Australia (ECIA), our peak-body, to come up from Melbourne today and pass on some information, including issues they are aware of from experiences in other regions that have already transitioned into the NDIS space.

“We have invited the parents of children who are clients of our service hoping that they will be able to attend so that we may provide them with the reassurance, that now MFC is an NDIS provider, that we’ll be able to support them through their transition into the NDIS.”

MFC NDIS Readiness Officer, Kim Williams, whose role is to help her organisation prepare for the NDIS said that while the transition date for this region officially commenced in January next year, MFC already have a number of participants who have plans in place ahead of time.

“We do have some early-entrants already accessing the new system, but for most families it’s still ahead, and so today they will have the opportunity to learn about their journey into the NDIS, what to expect, what the steps to be undertaken are and they’ll be able to ask any questions they may have,” she said.

“For some people there is some uncertainty about the upcoming transition to the NDIS and so it is important to MFC to support these families in that process and indeed to ensure our staff are able to assist them.

Ms Williams said the advice from the agencies like ECIA was invaluable in also helping MFC with their readiness for the transition as an organisation.

“Particularly given there are so many different areas that we operate in including disability, mental health services and family and children services, having this expert guidance is excellent,” she said.

“In many ways I think we are fortunate to be one of the last regions to implement the system because we have the opportunity of learning from the mistakes and identified anomalies that any new scheme will have.

“It’s actually a very exciting time to be a part of what is a major system change, the biggest social reform since the introduction of Medicare, and so it has a degree of complexity and difficulties.”

Visiting Mildura for the sessions was ECIA’s (Victoria and Tasmania) Brian Kirk who said the information session was focussing on early intervention for children with disabilities.

“It’s a huge space and we look after the providers like Mallee Family Care to prepare them for the transition,” he said.

“A lot of the readiness consultation we do is for providers as they transition their businesses from the ‘block-funded’ model, to the more, consumer driven NDIS side of things.

“If you consider in the previous block-funded system there was only a finite amount of money available and so people basically took what they were entitled to or what was available to them.

“Now under the NDIS, because it’s consumer driven, people that may never have been able to access services previously, can now get those services, which is absolutely fantastic because the providers effectively develop the services that their clients want and need.”

NDIS Readiness Advisor Trish McIvor said her role during her visit was to provide training and conduct workshops with the MFC team on ‘key-worker’ and ‘best-practice’.

“The key-worker role is really important in this field because it means that families have one person that they can align with, one point of contact, rather than having to tell their stories multiple times,” she said.

“The NDIS does use ECIA’s best-practice guidelines nationally as the basis for early childhood intervention, and so it’s something that’s in the forefront for early childhood providers.”

Ms McIvor said that the roll-out of the NDIS had been a little hit-and-miss in a lot of different regions and I think the good thing about Mallee and the Mildura area being the last roll out, is that a lot of the teething issues have been resolved in advance of it fully rolling out here.

“The issues will be easier to handle and work out. Having said that, NDIS is a changing landscape and things do shift and so having those solid foundations is going to hold it in good stead for this region.”