Springwood woman's plea for a suitable wheelchair

A Springwood woman has waited two years for another electric wheelchair, making do with one inadequate for her needs.

Richelle Alcock has numerous serious health conditions which leave her wheelchair-bound. The 20-year-old relies on an electric wheelchair to give her the independence to attend TAFE.

After submitting a request via the National Disability Insurance Scheme in August 2017, Richelle's mum Sara Alcock was advised in March that her request for a powered wheelchair was "not found to be reasonable and necessary".

Miss Alcock uses a wheelchair which is not customised for her needs.

"Yet they're [NDIS] happy to pay $850 a month for a wheelchair with no lumbar support, no neck support, and a joystick that causes Richelle pain to use. It's completely inadequate," Mrs Alcock said.

Her daughter needs a chair that can recline as she can't always sit up straight, and a chair with adjustable height, so she can reach shelves and shop tills.

"She's dizzy and weak, so she can't stand to reach cupboards or actually get a book off a bookshelf," Mrs Alcock said.

The chair is so uncomfortable to use, she requires weekly massages for the pain.

Mrs Alcock said they were also in need of bathroom equipment, so she didn't have to lift her daughter into and out of the bath, and a replacement manual wheelchair, as the wheels are broken.

"It's a nightmare and it's un-needed stress," Miss Alcock said.

In March, federal Macquarie MP Susan Templeman wrote to then Assistant Minister for Social Services, Housing and Disability Services, Sarah Henderson, on behalf of Richelle.

"To be advised 21 months from the date of submitting the request that it has been denied, without any clinical support as to why, is unreasonable. The consequence is that Richelle's ability to participate has been seriously limited, as has her independence and any capacity for choice and control," Ms Templeman wrote.

The MP said it shouldn't be this hard to get essential equipment.

"Richelle's experience mirrors that of too many others. They are at the point of despair because of knock back after knock back for equipment that health professionals had recommended," Ms Templeman said.

"The government has underspent on the NDIS by $1.6 billion while people like Richelle are missing out.

"It announced a review of the NDIS but that's not going to help people like Richelle who need action now. We've already had 20 reports and reviews into the NDIS in the past six years - the time to fix the NDIS is now," Ms Templeman said.

The Alcock family raised their difficulties with former Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, now Shadow Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, when he visited Springwood and the Hawkesbury on September 5.

"That such a capable young woman as Richelle needs to beg for nearly two years for a suitable wheelchair, shows the scheme is not being implemented properly," Mr Shorten said.

"Richelle is battling so many health challenges with dignity and courage. She needs this adjustable chair so she can have something of a social life and continue her studies."

He said his office would take up her case up directly with Stuart Robert, the Minister for the NDIS.

An NDIA spokeswoman said: "The NDIA regrets the delays Richelle has experienced, and will continue to work closely with her and the Alcock family in their request for a power wheelchair.

"As an interim solution, Richelle has funding available in her NDIS plan to hire a power wheelchair."

While in Springwood, Mr Shorten visited Able2, an organisation supporting young people with a disability, and heard firsthand some of the difficulties support workers were having with the NDIS.

He also heard from NDIS providers at a roundtable in Springwood, before hearing from NDIS participants in Richmond.