Update: Federal Government Concedes On Swallowing Issue

Last Thursday, Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher announced that the NDIS would step up in the interim and fund swallowing therapies for Participants who are at risk of choking due to their disability. Well, thank goodness for that.

Thus (temporarily) concludes one of the most frustrating battlegrounds of the NDIS. Some of you will remember the article we published in October by Jim Simpson from the NSW Council of Intellectual Disability (CID) which covered this issue in considerable depth.  Basically, it all started when the Agency sent a letter to Speech Pathology Australia saying that they would no longer cover the cost of swallowing assessments and support plans. Historically, this support has been funded by disability services in every state and territory. Following this announcement, swallowing therapies started to be removed from NDIS Plans, much to the horror of Participants and their families who depend on them.

The Agency claimed that swallowing therapies can prevent death and other health risks, and therefore are the responsibility of health services. In response, health services and advocacy groups argued that the ability to eat and drink safely is an activity of daily living and, therefore, falls under the purview of disability services.  

While the solution is only in the interim, the concession by the federal government indicates that they are starting to understand that many supports cannot be left unfunded during financing disputes between government services. Whoever ends up funding swallowing therapies in the long run, we can at least be confident that the government is very unlikely to want to return to a situation where Participants can not get any funding to this support.

The NSW Council for Intellectual Disability and other advocacy groups involved in the campaign deserve a massive congratulations for a huge win. This holiday season, Participants and families who rely on swallowing therapies will have the gift of knowing that in their next plan review they should be able to get funding for this support. And that is something we can all be grateful for this Christmas.