Vulnerable Tasmanians are going without care because of a glitch in technology.
It's something that should be an easy fix. Instead, it has seen participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme losing their carers, and the problem is about to affect far more people if we don't get it fixed soon.
NDIS participants can choose to employ a support worker of their choice, even if this worker is not linked to an active provider. Most support workers need to have a working with vulnerable people check to work with NDIS participants.
Last year changes were made in the way Tassie support workers complete these checks. The online process works across several platforms, but the federal platform and the Tasmanian system aren't lining up. As a result, the system is falling over and support workers are falling through the cracks. What's supposed to be an easy process to navigate has turned into a nightmare for everyone involved and no-one is taking responsibility for it.
I want to tell you about Janet, Blade and Anne. They live in my patch of Ulverstone in Tassie. Janet has been caring for Blade for seven years. Blade is a young man in his 20s and he has intellectual disabilities. He requires Janet and a second carer to make sure he gets the care he needs. Blade's mum, Anne, is his legal guardian. Janet first tried to renew her working with vulnerable people card back in May. Her employer Carer Solutions is no longer listed as an active provider, so it means that her employer is now Anne or Blade.
It took Anne six weeks to fill in the online application to become Janet's employer. So they went through all that and lodged the application, but the glitch in the Tassie system means that self-employed support workers never get to the next step in the process. They just cannot progress in the system and their application drops into a hole of despair. Without the working with vulnerable people check, support workers are unable to continue working with their participants.
In Janet's case, she tried to apply for her check more than eight times. It didn't work. Time was running out. If she didn't have her card she would no longer be able to care for Blade, so Janet did the only thing she could think of: she got job with another NDIS provider already in the system so that she could get through the process smoothly.
Guess what? It worked. But now she has a second job and other clients to care for. It means she's unable to spend the time necessary to care for Blade, and she's working herself into the ground to work these two jobs.
When I first spoke to Janet she was exhausted. She was about to run out the door to go to work at her second job. She's taken the bullet because, without her, her clients would suffer. Janet cares so much about Blade that she will do whatever it takes to make sure she can still work with him. And these changes have impacted on Blade's care and his day-to-day routine he has come to rely on. He faces further instability because his second carer is about to go through the exact same thing.
If the only available solution to getting the check is to get a second job, both of Blade's carers will be tied up working for another company and other clients. Where does that leave Blade and his needs? Why should Blade have to suffer because of a tech glitch that no-one wants to take responsibility for?
Carer Solutions have tried to contact the NDIS commissioner and the Tasmanian Consumer, Building and Occupational Services department several times about the issue. Each organisation says 'not my problem' and tells them to talk to the other organisation.
If this error isn't fixed soon, Carer Solutions estimates it could impact at least 80 participants and 123 support workers at home—and that's just support workers and participants under their umbrella. This will hit hundreds of Tasmanians.
It's not feasible for support workers to get a second job just to make it through a standard working with vulnerable people card check. Now I'm not the most tech savvy person around, but this shouldn't be so hard.
I'm calling on the Tasmanian state government to urgently fix this problem. The basic care of vulnerable Tasmanians shouldn't rely on a flawed online process.
*Carer Solutions is not Janet’s ‘employer’. Anne (Nominee) and Blade (Participant) employ Janet (Support Worker) through Carer Solutions’ Direct Employ service.
Carer Solutions is Australia’s only service that enables people with disability to directly employ disability support workers they know and trust. Founded by CEO Jane Morrell in 2011, Carer Solutions’ human-centric services are designed to enable the approximately 4.4 million Australians living with a disability to live self-determined lives.
Over the past decade, Carer Solutions has provided an alternative solution to help people directly employ support workers they know and trust. Carer Solutions’ Direct Employ service facilitates everything from payroll to employer insurance and compliance, along with keeping employers up to date with NDIS changes and key information.