Former Paralympians Ron Finneran and Chris Sparks have represented Australia at the highest level.
- Australians who apply for disability care after the age of 65 cannot receive the NDIS
- Ron Finneran and Chris Sparks are championing the campaign for change
- Around 450,000 Australians live with the level of disability required to meet the NDIS's disability criteria
Both men have received the Order of Australia, are wheelchair users, and both have chosen to live out their retirement years on the NSW Far South Coast.
But when it comes to government support for disability care, the similarities end there — due to a loophole in eligibility criteria.
According to the Federal Register of Legislation for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), a person who meets the NDIS age requirement is "… aged under 65 when the access request in relation to the person was made".
That affects Australians like Ron Finneran.
Mr Finneran has lived with the effects of post-polio for most of his life, but at 77 years old is lacking large portions of his disability care despite meeting the assessment criteria for the NDIS — all because he was over the age of 65 when the scheme came into effect in 2013.
Mr Finneran said the eligibility criteria meant he was only eligible for My Aged Care, a scheme with significantly less funding and more restrictions on what that funding can be used for.
Missing out on vital care
Advocacy group People with Disability Australia said it left vulnerable Australians without the significant care they needed.
"Both are supposed to be around supporting people, but the key difference is the NDIS is supposed to [give] people what they need to be who they are … whereas aged care can be very much focussed on our medical needs and it can be far more limited," president Sam Connor said.
In comparison, the president of the NSW Physical Disability Council, Chris Sparks, was 53 at the time the NDIS was introduced. He lives with similar physical challenges to Mr Finneran, but he receives the full support of the NDIS.
"I got injured young as a kid but plenty of people get injured over the age of 65", he said.
"Currently in Australia if you apply for the NDIS you must be under 65 years of age … so if you have that accident at the age of 64, tremendous, [but] if you're over 65 you're ruled ineligible and that means you have to get by on the aged care supports, which are absolutely inappropriate."
Campaign to highlight flaws
In response to what many working in the disability sector believe is unfair, Mr Sparks and the New South Wales Physical Disability Council along with Spinal Cord Injuries Australia have launched a national campaign to address the inequity.
"The objective [is] to try and get rid of this implicit age discrimination … the reality is only about 450,000 are eligible for the NDIS," Mr Sparks said.
"It doesn't give people the right to be funded individually … and it doesn't cater towards any needs, goals, determinations whatsoever," CEO of the NSW Physical Disability Council, Serena Ovens, said.
In response to the campaign, a spokesperson for the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Linda Reynolds, told the ABC:
It is a policy that may affect only a portion of elderly Australians with a disability. But for men and women like Ron Finneran, it leaves them struggling to finance their care needs.