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Partners In Crime NDIS: and Home-Schooling

Gary JohnsApril 2, 2024
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Let me take you into the world of bad parenting and home-schooling, doctor shopping for an NDIS diagnosis, and children suffering.

The cost to the taxpayer is phenomenal. Why is it happening?

To illustrate. Two recent cases in the Family Court each involved two children who were home-schooled, on NDIS and in the care of one parent. Mercifully, in both cases, the court ordered the children to be placed in the other parent’s care and returned to school. Hopefully, socialising is all the children require, and NDIS can move on to the deserving.

The first case involved two home-schooled children in their early teens. The parent was paid a carer’s allowance for caring for the grandmother. It appeared that the tasks undertaken as a carer were limited. One of the children had done ‘work experience’ as the grandparent’s carer. There was a time when doing chores for Gran was a duty or a joy. Now, it is work experience.

The children’s day was unstructured, with a late start and bedtime. In the afternoon, they ‘engaged’ in schooling and ‘engaged socially’ with their support workers. One child ‘engaged’ with his support workers between 5.30 pm and 9.30 pm four nights per week. The NDIS plan for this child costs more than $120,000 per year. The plan included the goal of the child becoming less anxious and overcoming unspecified ‘recent trauma’, highly likely the unproven allegation of witnessing domestic violence. The other child’s NDIS plan was more than $110,000 per year. The plan included the goal of being less reliant on the parent.

The second case involved two home-schooled pre-teens. The older pre-teen was kept in nappies without any medical reason. The children had dyed hair past their waists and falling in their eyes. The children were socially isolated, which may have caused their apparent symptoms. Each child received more than $50,000 to support their needs. For much of the day, the children played computer games. They ate when they wanted to. They were unkempt and wore no shoes. They had few friends. It was a ‘depressive environment’.

Professional willingness to accede to a parent’s demands has long been a risk; diagnosis shopping and the lack of education department oversight of home-schooling have ballooned since COVID-19. While public health medical officers’ COVID-19 response was reprehensible, it has made perhaps the least able parents paranoid about any state intervention, leaving their children at risk. It seems that a persistent parent, determined to chase a diagnosis to help keep a child at home and away from an estranged partner, shops for a preferred diagnosis and an NDIS plan to pay for the scheme.

The fateful exercise begins when assertions reported to one medical practitioner, specialist, or therapist are accepted and repeated to others without question: an assertion becomes a fact. Consequently, responses by educators, therapists, and medical practitioners are framed on a false premise. An educational response is based on an acceptance that a child cannot, for medical reasons, concentrate sufficiently to participate in mainstream schooling. The cause may be bad parenting, not bad genes.

One judge commented on the ‘bewildering and unacceptable absence of sufficiently rigorous oversight of the home-schooling aspect of the education system’. The judge asked, ‘How can these children have essentially “disappeared” from the usual educational oversights and checks and balances that participation in our society promotes?’

In these cases, the school formulated Individual Education Plans based on information about the children’s progress provided by one parent. How are parents assessed to determine if they can give their children the education they would receive if they were afforded the benefits of day-to-day interactions with qualified teachers?

The ‘supervising’ school’s lack of follow-up was woeful. The children had an assigned mainstream teacher and a special needs teacher. Their direct engagement with the mainstream teacher involved one 45-minute online engagement session per fortnight. If the children did not attend the planned session, it was not rescheduled but missed. The special needs teacher had no direct contact with one child or contact with the other for two years.

Bad parenting is not uncommon, but professionals who give in to fabrications and schools that fail to follow up leave the children of such parents in harm’s way and at a significant cost to the taxpayer. A parent effectively disengages a child from meaningful participation in the education system without consequence. Some interventions are warranted.

Gary Johns is chair of Close the Gap Research.

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