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Joanita Wibowo

Government’s disability scheme slammed as “heartless” after man's claim rejected

Government’s disability scheme slammed as “heartless” after man's claim rejected

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been lambasted as “heartless” after it rejected the claim of a South Australian man with a damaged hand.

Martin Barclay told 7News that he struggles to shower and cook on his own, yet the NDIS does not find him disabled enough.

Barclay, 48, has been living with the severe impairment on his hand for almost two decades. The hand, which was already weakened after a motorbike crash in his youth, was further damaged in a workplace accident in 2002, causing it to clench and spasm.

To clean the impaired hand, Barclay has to visit Clare Hospital every six weeks to be sedated while doctors perform the task.

However, when his doctor lodged a claim for support with the federal government’s disability scheme in February, it was rejected with a letter implying that Barclay’s condition is not permanent.

“When I got that letter, I just cried for two days virtually,” said Barclay. “I find it absolutely appalling, you know, this poor disabled person, just being pushed to the side.”

The NDIS said it will review Barclay’s disability claim.

This is not the first time that NDIS’ rejection has been questioned. Last year, New South Wales man Jeremy Hawkes – who was featured on the scheme’s nationwide ad campaign – got his application rejected, as his Parkinsonism and chronic pain were found not to substantially reduce his ability to care for himself.

The NDIS is required by law to provide “reasonable and necessary supports” for Australians with “permanent and significant disability”. As of December 31, 2018, more than 244,000 Australians have joined the scheme.

However, the program has been riddled with issues, with the Mercury’s editorial describing it as “a failing system”.

According to disability advocate lawyer Dona Graham, many find the application and review process long and complex. “When you're wanting to apply to the NDIS, there's actually nobody on your side,” Graham told the ABC. “You're actually not being supported. It's incredibly complex and financially it's out of most people's purview.”

Those who have been found eligible by the NDIS also face problems. According to The Advertiser, only three out of five (59 per cent) South Australians with NDIS packages are actually spending their money on services due to the “confusing” system.