Joshy Mitchell with his mother Toni Mitchell.
Joshy Mitchell with his mother Toni Mitchell. Nev Madsen

Court ruling gives Toowoomba mum hope in NDIS fight

A TOOWOOMBA mother's desperate fight to get the National Disability Insurance Scheme to cover her son's essential "food" has been given a glimmer of hope.

Ms Mitchell is hoping a recent legal ruling against the National Disability Insurance Agency will help her find a solution, saying her son Joshy had become the victim of a funding gap between two levels of government.

Joshy, who has Down syndrome along with a multitude of complex issues, is unable to swallow normal food due to a condition called dysphagia.

While he can sometimes ingest food orally, the vast majority of Joshy's daily intake comes from special nutritional supplements that are pumped directly into his stomach.

"Joshy can eat a little bit, but it needs to be specially prepared or of a certain density," Ms Mitchell said.

"This is a specially made supplement to cover Joshy's complete nutritional needs.

"Dieticians have said this type of nutritional supplement is needed for him."

Mother's plea to NDIS: Rhonda and Greg Miles are determined to keep their son out of a nursing home.
Mother's plea to NDIS: Rhonda and Greg Miles are determined to keep their son out of a nursing home.

But despite several reviews and repeated evidence, Ms Mitchell said the NDIS argued the supplements were "medical" and not disability-based, and would not cover the $6000 a year for them.

"They've said the supplements and the giving lines (which piped food into his stomach) were more medical," she said.

"In denying supporting him, they're denying him a basic human right of being able to have food.

"This is just part of what his needs are.

"They're saying the state hospitals should pay for it."

The State Government has been temporarily providing funding until Ms Mitchell can resolve the issue through either another appeal or legal action.

Her plight has been helped by a ruling last week against the NDIA in a high-stakes administrative appeals tribunal case.

AAT deputy president Brian Rayment found the NDIA were wrong to deny funding for swallowing supports to deny a 34-year-old man who also had dysphagia.

"I welcome this decision and I'm so happy he's decided on this," Ms Mitchell said.

"This has set a precedent and we're pleased by that."

Joshy's situation somewhat mirrors the plight of Rhonda and Greg Miles in Toowoomba, whose son Lachlan has been refused funding for a registered nurse under the NDIS for a similar reason.

A spokeswoman for the NDIA said it would work with Ms Mitchell to find a solution.

"In December 2018, the government announced interim solutions for people with dysphagia, including that the NDIS will fund the ongoing assessment and monitoring of meal plans for NDIS participants with dysphagia who aren't in a hospital or acute care setting," she said.

"The Agency is considering the recent AAT decision in relation to the applicant and the National Disability Insurance Agency.

"The NDIA will respond to the Mitchell family's recent request for a review and ensure they have an opportunity to discuss any concerns regarding the plan, including queries relating to nutritional supplements."