Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon has slammed the Morrison Government for awarding a contract that will see tens of NDIS jobs slashed from the region.
Ms Claydon said 29 Local Area Coordinator roles, including 16 designated Aboriginal positions, are likely to disappear when Uniting takes over the Hunter New England NDIS contract from St Vincent de Paul on 1 July.
“It’s unfathomable that the Morrison Government would enter into a tendering process that would see the loss of so many important jobs and the end of a highly successful and innovative indigenous program,” Ms Claydon said.
“To lose these vital frontline roles at any time is outrageous, but for the Morrison Government to support this in the middle of a pandemic – when people with disability are already facing increased levels of anxiety and unemployment rates are skyrocketing – is utterly unforgivable.
“The NDIS is already in the top three Federal agencies that people complain to me about in Newcastle. This is just going to make a service that is already severely under-resourced even worse.”
Ms Claydon said the loss of dedicated Aboriginal positions would be particularly damaging.
“For the last four years, St Vincent de Paul has been delivering a landmark program to deliver dedicated, intensive and culturally-informed support for Aboriginal people with disability and their communities.
“We’ve seen their great work with Aboriginal communities to help overcome a deep, historical distrust of government and agencies. And we’ve seen a significant and sustained increase in Aboriginal participants as a result. I’m very worried that the loss of key Aboriginal-identified positions will put all of this hard work at risk.”
Ms Claydon said attempts to discuss her concerns with Uniting have been frustrated by the NDIA.
“I’ve reached out to talk directly with the Executive Director of Uniting about my concerns, but the government has effectively gagged the organisation from talking with me, insisting that the NDIA plays the role of gatekeeper instead,” Ms Claydon said.
“Almost every day I meet with organisations about services and issues affecting our community – indeed it’s one of my most fundamental responsibilities. For a Government agency to insert itself and try to dictate the terms and conditions of my private conversations is unprecedented in my experience – and deeply concerning.”