ACTIV has been forced to cancel a bus service which took its disabled workers to their factory jobs and home each day, leaving dozens of families stressed, out of pocket and unhappy.
Many of the organisation’s 30-odd drivers will also be made redundant.
The cancellation could affect around 70 disabled staff who work at Activ’s factory in Palmyra.
Executive manager operations Mark Furr told the Herald that as part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme rollout, Activ would no longer be given block funding to run the service.
Instead, money would go directly to the workers, with their families told they’ll have to organise their own way to the factories, such as taking public transport, taxis or car pooling.
Barbara Whitmore says she’s done the figures already and her son, who suffers from fragile X syndrome, will face a $60 shortfall each week if he takes public transport. It will have to come out of his disability pension.
“I am 73 years old and to drive my son there every day would be a nightmare,” she told the Herald.
She says apart from the cost, the buses provided a safe and secure environment for the workers.
“The buses are a very important part of their routine,” Ms Whitmore said.
“Some of the people work two or three days a week and it’s a lifeline. It like a family; it’s part of their life.”
Ms Whitmore said there had also been contradictory information from Disability Service Commission co-ordinators about which families would be eligible for a $1500 transport allowance. She says that’s been adding to everyone’s stress, although she’s been told her son will qualify.
“This has affected my asthma and a lot of others say the stress has been affecting their health; one lady who is a teacher has had to take sick leave.
“My son, who is 46 and has fragile X chromosome, can’t walk, he can’t read or write; how is he going to catch a bus?
“Activ has chosen to do this which is exceedingly disappointing.”
Mr Furr said they had no option. Activ looked into a fee-for-service option, but found the costs prohibitive.
He said Activ had been passing on the feedback from families to the Disabilities Services Commission, which is overseeing the NDIS rollout, although it wasn’t its remit to be lobbying.
Mr Furr said the decision would affect about 30 bus drivers, some who’ve been with Activ for decades.
“Our priority is redeploy those we can within the organisation, and we have engaged as transparently with them as we could, but the stark reality for some bus drivers is that are going to be some redundancies.”
Some other drivers had indicated that it was time to retire anyway, he said.
One of the affected drivers the Herald spoke to said the mood amongst his colleagues was grim and some were calling for heads to roll.
New WA disability services minister Stephen Dawson blamed the Barnett government for stopping Activ’s funding.
“My goal is to ensure continuity of service for people with disability, their families and carers, and also to ensure WA’s transition to an NDIS is a success,” Mr Dawson told the Herald.
He said the commission had met with private charter companies and had negotiated a service which would start on July 1.
“The commission is now in the process of communicating this development to Activ employees.”
by STEVE GRANT