The Queensland Government’s decision to scrap the Taxi Subsidy Scheme for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants will leave Queenslanders with disability struggling to travel independently.
From July 1, 2019, the State’s Taxi Subsidy Scheme (TSS) will no longer be available for current NDIS participants or eligible people with disability.
General Manager of Advocacy and Engagement at Vision Australia, Karen Knight says the decision will leave her and tens of thousands of other Queenslanders worse off.
“At present, the vast majority of NDIS participants in Queensland are not receiving adequate transport funding in their packages,” says Ms Knight.
“From July 1, taxi travel will be too expensive and Queenslanders with a disability face the real prospect of not being able to travel independently when they need to.
“As a person who is blind, I rely on the TSS to travel to work, attend appointments and support my young family.”
She says the removal of the TSS will cost her an additional $250 per week.
“I would be put in a situation where I’d have to consider relocating to be closer to my employer and connections important to my life, which would also bring significant expense,” Ms Knight says.
Despite other options, such as public transport, taxis offer flexible, safe, efficient and accessible travel with the TSS covering 50 per cent of a fare up to a maximum of $25 per trip.
“Taxi travel doesn’t bring with it the worry of whether a train station or bus stop is accessible,” Ms Knight explains.
“It also provides the same door-to-door convenience that car travel offers to those who can drive.”
Vision Australia, along with the wider disability support sector, is pushing for the Queensland Government to extend the TSS for at least another two years and has created a petition to help support the extension.
“We believe two years would allow State and Federal Governments to finalise the necessary agreements so that people can access adequate transport funding via the NDIS,” Ms Knight says.
“Recently governments in New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania have recognised that people would be left worse off under the NDIS and have committed additional funding to their taxi schemes, now it’s the Queensland Government’s turn to do the same.”
Acting Chief Executive Officer of National Disability Services, David Moody says NDIS participants have been experiencing issues with the adequacy of transport funding since the commencement of the Scheme.
“The level of transport funding that most participants receive does not currently meet their transport needs and access to Taxi Subsidy Schemes provides a critical means for NDIS participants to stretch their limited NDIS transport budgets as far as possible,” Mr Moody says.
“Whilst all States and Territories currently offer a level of subsidy NDIS participants are able to use to supplement any transport funding that they receive as part of their NDIS plan, these are at risk in some parts of the country.”
Mr Moody says adequate access to transport is essential for NDIS participants to engage in social and economic life and transport funding through the Scheme is simply not enough to allow this.
“Some NDIS participants will not have transport funded in their plans. Others, with transport support funded in their plans, will still be expected to meet some of the costs of their transport out of their own income,” Mr Moody says.
“Just as was the case before the NDIS, like other people with a disability in the community, there’s still a need to rely on the State and Territory Taxi Subsidy Schemes to help meet the costs.
“The overall impact of reducing or ceasing the access of NDIS participants to currently available taxi subsidies will be to make transport even less affordable and available to people with disability than it is currently.”
The Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that the more severe a person’s disability the less likely they are to be able to access public transport, therefore, taxis can represent a vital, accessible transport option.
You can show your support and help by signing the petition here.