Chair: Mr John Simpson, AM
As this reporting period began, our sector, like every other, was still responding to the many impacts of the pandemic, which are of course ongoing. But COVID-19 has only served to highlight the value of our work, since people with blindness and vision loss are some of the most affected by the rapid changes our society has undergone.
With a range of expertise and approaches encompassing medical professionals, people with lived experience, researchers and service providers, our Committee has been uniquely equipped to address the constant challenge our sector faces – the need to ensure that generalist systems capture and address the specific needs of people who are blind or have low vision. Our members have worked energetically to offer innovative solutions to the problems, and highlight the barriers, preventing people with vision loss from receiving the services, supports, connections and treatments they need to stay independent. The full committee met twice during the 2020-21 year, with six associated working groups meeting over the period to progress specific work priorities.
This year has seen the announcement of landmark reforms to both the NDIS and aged care. As our early position statement explained, our sector strongly believes the NDIA’s planned introduction of independent assessments, while designed to address genuine problems, would likely have made it more difficult for people with blindness and low vision to access vital supports. We therefore appreciated the transition toward a more consultative approach stewarded by new NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds, and look forward to offering our experience and input into the collaborative work of building a new system that provides equality and consistency to all participants.
We have continued to foster a cordial and productive relationship with the Agency. In partnership with Blind Citizens Australia, we’ve held regular monthly meetings and a forum with sector CEOS and NDIA key figures in March, where NDIA CEO Martin Hoffman delivered the keynote address. Our Chair, Christopher Pyne, also discussed issues raised by the Committee in meetings with both Minister Reynolds and former Minister Stuart Robert.
The final recommendations by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety broadly reflected many of the concerns we raised in our submission to the Commission in the last reporting period. In their response, the federal government announced a $17.7 billion investment in promised reforms to the system which will be carried out over the coming years. Again, we have kept in contact with the Department of Health throughout this transitional period, through meetings with both Ministers Hunt and Colbeck, and through other meetings with Department staff. A Department representative also spoke with the Committee in August 2020, providing another invaluable opportunity for sector representatives to highlight ways the system could work better for our cohort.
In our many submissions this year, the sector advocated for:
- Skilled workforces in both NDIS and aged care systems that are equipped and trained to recognise the needs of people who are blind or have low vision.
- A refined approach to assessing NDIS eligibility and funding that would continue to give people with blindness and vision loss the dignity, independence, choice and control the scheme promised.
- A more accessible NDIS for people with vision loss,, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
- Government commitments to prioritise universal design in all procurement processes, and aim to improve employment rates for people with vision loss.
The Committee also developed content for our 2020-21 Pre-budget Submission, including:
- A proposal for a national scheme to provide aids and equipment to older Australians,
- research into the potential for loan systems for providing assistive technology, and
- a just-in-time coaching service for aged care workers whose clients have vision loss.
- Submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety: Aged care system governance, market management, and roles and responsibilities
- Submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability: First Nations Peoples with disability – blindness and low vision perspectives
- Submission to the National Disability Insurance Agency: Review of Support Coordination Service Model
- Submission to the Department of Social Services: A New National Disability Strategy
- Submission to the NDIA: Access and Eligibility Policy with Independent Assessments
- Submission to the NDIA: Planning Policy for Personalised Budgets and Plan Flexibility
- Submission to the NDIA: Supporting Young Children and Families Early, to Reach their Full Potential
- Submission to the Medical Research Future Fund – Dementia Ageing and Aged Care Mission Review
- Submission to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme – Inquiry into Independent Assessments
- Submission to the National Skills Commission – Care Workforce and Labour Market Study.
Our Adult Referral Pathway for Blindness and Low Vision Services was also launched during this period, and we are committed to ensuring that it becomes embedded in the cultures of organisations within our sector. As the financial year drew to a close, we also began collaborating with the Department of Social Services on a project to streamline regulation and simplify worker screening across disability, aged care and veterans’ affairs. Given that our sector interfaces with all three of these systems, we’ve been able to offer a unique perspective, and also highlight the value of our sector as a potential testbed for new approaches.
In all, this has been a period of significant change and systemic reform, in which Vision 2020 has played a vital role as the voice of our sector, advocating tirelessly for the needs of people with blindness and low vision.
I’d like to conclude by thanking all the Committee members and proxies who’ve assisted in this work throughout the period.
John Simpson – Blind Citizens Australia (Chair)
Annette Clarke – Guide Dogs NSW/ACT
Anita Egan – Orthoptics Australia
Anthea Cochrane – Optometry Australia
Chris Edwards – Vision Australia
Derek Fails – Brien Holden Foundation
Dian Rahardjo – Brien Holden Foundation
Diana Kube – Blind Citizens Australia
Fleur O’Hare – Centre for Eye Research Australia
Jess Styles – NACCHO
Kary Macliver – VisAbility
Kate Brill – VisAbility
Leighton Boyd – Retina Australia
Mae Chong – Australian College of Optometry
Margaret Lum – RANZCO
Mark Choo – Macular Disease Foundation Australia
Rikki Chaplin – Blind Citizens Australia
Sharon Oberstein – UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science
Shelley Pannier – Guide Dogs Victoria
Dr Sue Silveira – NextSense
Tony Starkey – Royal Society for the Blind/Beyond Blindness
Caitlin McMorrow – Vision Australia
Dinesh Burah – VisAbility
Lien Trinh – Brien Holden Foundation
Nosa Omokaro – RANZCO