Esperance family's call for NDIS supporting therapy services

Calling for change: Jessica Gardiner hopes more occupational therapists will come to Esperance so her daughter Nyliah can access the support she needs. Photo: Sarah Makse.
Calling for change: Jessica Gardiner hopes more occupational therapists will come to Esperance so her daughter Nyliah can access the support she needs. Photo: Sarah Makse.

A local mother is pleading for change, saying her daughter is suffering due to a lack of therapy services for people with disabilities in Esperance.

Jessica Gardiner's daughter Nyliah, seven, was born with down syndrome and diagnosed with autism when she was three.

Nyliah requires occupational therapy every few months, however, has not seen a specialist for about a year.

Ms Gardiner said she had searched for private therapists to support her daughter's NDIS plan, with no luck.

Ms Gardiner manages Nyliah's NDIS funds which allows her to access any provider, however, she can't find any suited to her needs in Esperance.

Participants of the NDIS, can be self-managed, plan-managed or NDIA-managed.

Plan and self-managed clients such as Nyliah, can use any provider, including Allied Health professionals.

Agency-managed participants can only access therapy or other services from NDIS registered providers of which there are 1000 in WA.

This poses an issue for individuals in remote areas, as there are limited services and even fewer NDIS registered providers.

As of September 30, 2019, 96 people in Esperance were participating in the NDIS.

"I'm not going to let her suffer anymore, she needs it and she needs it now," Ms Gardiner said.

The mother said she had no choice but to begin approaching therapists herself.

"I have put a post on the community page trying to rally together other families who needed occupational therapy services, because it is easier to convince a provider from outside of town if there is more than just one family needing it," she said.

"I don't know where to go with it, I can contact all occupational therapists in the world and we just need that one who is willing to do it.

"I don't want to have to go outside of town to find somebody, it's just so frustrating."

An NDIA spokesperson said since the introduction of NDIS they had seen a growth in the market, including new providers in regional and remote locations across the country.

"However, the government and the NDIA recognise that more needs to be done to support growth of the NDIS market and workforce," she said.

"A range of initiatives are underway to support this growth, including increased pricing, individual support for providers to transition to the NDIS and development of a National NDIS Workforce Plan."

Private occupational therapist Kay Magagnotti said the time needed for administration affected her availability to take on NDIS participants.

"I definitely feel that Esperance needs a wider range of NDIS supported and accessible therapy services so all ages and types of disability can be catered for," she said.

People with Disabilities WA systemic project officer Anne Livingston recently visited Esperance to discuss issues surrounding the NDIS rollout with families and agencies.

She said locals expressed frustrations with the lack of choice and control over therapy services for NDIS participants.

"There appears to be no NDIS providers of therapy services based in Esperance," she said.

"The idea was that there would be a market of providers who are out there.The reality is in places like Esperance, there is not a market that is already in place.

"It's going to take time and people in the community to get together to potentially try and mobilise the community to find cooperatives of therapists."

"That's a really good thing about regional areas, if you give people the resources to come together they can come up with really innovative solutions."

People with Disabilities WA executive director Samantha Jenkinson said although therapists visited Esperance from other towns, it was important for children to receive ongoing support from a team of providers.

"For many of the families with young children who are coming through the NDIS, there's often a multi-disciplinary therapy team effort that's part of that early intervention," she said.

"So there is physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy all working together to figure out what is needed for the child.

"The ability to work together as part of a multidisciplinary team is just so vital as part of that early childhood intervention and I think that is why it is such a big gap."

The Esperance Express can reveal a group of experienced local therapists will open a purpose designed therapy service for people with disability living in Esperance next year.

The team of therapists will include; occupational therapy, speech pathology, physiotherapy and dietetics.

The team said they looked forward to opening Realise Ability early in the new year and working together to provide a team based therapy service for NDIS participants.

Anyone needing support or more information on the NDIS is encouraged to visit the People with Disabilities WA website or call (08) 9420 7279 to speak directly with an advocate.