Disabled given input for scheme

Last updated 19:24 01/05/2012

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Australia

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Disabled people and carers will help design Australia's multi-billion-dollar national disability insurance scheme to be launched in mid-2013, Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin says.

Ms Macklin announced today three working groups, made up of disabled people, carers, disability advocates, service providers and experts, will advise the Labor government about the design of scheme.

It comes after Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Monday that commonwealth start-up funding for the Medicare-style scheme, which is set to cost A$8 billion (NZ$10b) a year, would be revealed in the federal budget next week.

The extra funding means the scheme, which will also have state and territory support, can start operating a year earlier than expected.

The scheme is to be launched at four sites in July 2013 to assist 10,000 people, and by mid-2014 it will be extended to 20,000 people.

State and territory government will take part in deciding on the start-up locations.

"It may be in some regional locations," Ms Macklin told reporters in Canberra.

"I think it is more than likely it will be spread across a number of states and territories."

She said premiers and chief ministers should look for areas that already have high-quality disability services.

"One of the big issues is making sure that we have the workforce in place in the locations we start with," Ms Macklin said.

She said the working groups would look at eligibility, standards of care and how to provide choice of care to disabled people.

The minister dismissed claims that Labor, which would lose the next federal election based on current polling, was unfairly raising the hopes of the disabled because the scheme could falter under a coalition government led by Tony Abbott.

Addressing a Perth rally on Monday, Mr Abbott offered the government bipartisan support for a "responsible and timely" scheme.

Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey has questioned how the government would fund the launch of the scheme, suggesting families could not afford the multibillion-dollar price tag.

The scheme, proposed by the Productivity Commission, will cover many of the costs of people born with disabilities or who become incapacitated later in life.

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- AAP

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