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Hands off public disability services! say NSW health staff

18 July 2014
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, a PSI affiliate in Australia, has been campaigning since December 2013 against the O'Farrell government's decision to privatise disability care services. On 17 July, the union published a petition which asks that the state Government retains a role in the provision of services in the ageing, disability and home care sectors and protects staff.

According to the new legislation, by 2018 there will be no government involvement in disability services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will be privatised in New South Wales.

The legislation was rushed through parliament with little consultation with staff or their representatives, and gives the government powers to decide who will remain in employment, and by whom (NGO or private sector), without the consent of the employee concerned. There will be no access to redundancy payments or means to negotiate 'comparable employment' or locality factors.

Health staff are also very concerned about the effects of the legislation on care home residents and their families. Some residential homes destined for closure specialise in care of people with severe disabilities who have lived for several years in a safe and caring environment. Their families worry that their transfer away from the homes would create unnecessary hardship, and they do not foresee that private providers would be able, or even want, to offer suitable services for their loved ones who have very special needs.

General Secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA), Brett Holmes, said the lack of real consultation and consideration of needs of the disabled and their carers had been distressing for residents and nurses.

“Residents of the Stockton Centre [a care home for severely disabled persons] and their families should have the right to choose the care that best meets their needs, rather than being forced into the unknown,” said Mr Holmes.

“Thousands of vital nursing jobs across NSW are at risk as a result of the O’Farrell Government’s privatisation plans, with no assurances current public sector pay and conditions would be offered by private agencies.

“We are determined to fight this on behalf of our members to ensure the fairness, respect and dignity they deserve.

“Many of our members have dedicated their life long careers to providing professional care to the most disabled members of our community and they have pledged to do all that is within their power to make sure that their clients continue to have access to the high standards of care they deserve."

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