A disability service that has been in existence for four decades will be shut down at the end of the month because it fell through the cracks when the NSW and federal governments couldn’t agree on who was responsible for its $1million funding.
Assistive Technology Australia, formerly known as the Independent Living Center NSW, will close on April 28 after the previous state government withdrew its financial support, believing it should be funded by the federal Disability Insurance Scheme as the service lacks advocacy was.
However, the federal minister for the program has ruled the service, which has operated since 1981, as ineligible for NDIS funding because it offers free counseling for people living at home with disabilities, which he considers advocacy.
“We fell through the cracks,” said the organization’s CEO Robyn Chapman, expressing concern about the layoff of the service’s seven employees, three of whom live with a physical disability, as there was a million-dollar shortage.
Government-funded Independent Living Centers provide impartial counseling and training for people with disabilities on the use of assistive technology, such as modified furniture and activity aids. They do not accept funds from manufacturers of these technologies.
Originally a British concept, Australia’s independent life centers were opened under the Whitlam government following the recommendations of the Woodhouse and Meares Reports. After the change of government, they became a project for state health and disability systems.
However, the formation of the NDIS put the services in a precarious financial position as the state governments believed that they should be funded through the federal program. The corresponding Victorian service closed in 2019 in similar circumstances.
The previous NSW Government partially funded the service for a transitional period. However, Chapman said the service has not been able to find alternative revenue streams to remain open after April 28.
“If we leave, people lose access to impartial advice about assistive technologies,” said Peter Simpson, a service worker and wheelchair user.