Miriam High under review

Port Augusta Transcontinental

THE future of the Miriam High Special Needs Centre has fallen into uncertainty amidst the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Following a significant quarterly loss, Port Augusta City Council have commissioned an independent report to assess the commercial viability of the council run Centre as an NDIS provider.

“The direct impact of the NDIS has had a significant negative financial impact toCouncil,” Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson said, upon insights from the Council’s Management Committee.

“We can’t control that change, it has happened due to federal legislation, so now what can we do is explore what other avenues could be available to ensure that the service is maintained.

“It may be through private partnerships or something else that we can explore to ensure that a service – or this service – continues to be delivered, because we acknowledge the importance of the service and it’s been an integral service that’s been delivered for many years now.”

Amid the introduction of the NDIS, the disability sector has undergone significant change; Miriam High Special Needs Centre was receiving block funding from several sources. However under the new initiative, block funding is being phased out and individualised funding per client has been introduced.

The number of clients attending the Centre has also significantly reduced and it is struggling to fit into NDIS approved support clusters. Dignity Party MLC Kelly Vincent has been a strong supporter of the NDIS.

“The person with support needs receives a sum of money depending on their individual needs, to spend on the services they want,” Ms Vincent explained.

“While this is great in terms of giving disabled people more control over their own lives, it does present some challenges, in particular for smaller organisations who may not have the resources to restructure, or market themselves in a way they’ve never had to before.

“While its true that the NDIS may provide more options for familes, and some of them may chose services other than the centre, I’m also aware of cases where parents try their best to transition to the scheme and find it so overwhelming that they don’t continue to seek therapy and care.”

The report recommended Council discontinues operating the Centre and a number of options have been provided moving forward. One option was to maintain the program, but transform it’s service model to fit the NDIS Others included merging, outsourcing or selling.

The report also stated that a community such as Port Augusta with a higher proportion of vulnerable people/families may find that some people ‘slip through the cracks’ as NDIS rolls out. Mr Johnson said this is something Council is mindful of going forward.

“We are still a service provider at this present point in time, and being a service provider we need to make sure that we still continue to deliver that in an effective manner,” he said.

“The community has rightfully come to respect and use that service so we can’t just shut it off over night. “Any changes that do happen need to go ahead in a very open and transparent way and ensure there is the appropriate transition put in place as well.”

Council is now seeking feedback on the options provided through a community consultation process. A final decision on the fate of the Centre is expected to be reached by mid February.