Tracy's Battle

Born with one arm and no legs, Tracy Barrell has been dealt a pretty rough hand in life.

Affectionately known as 'Skatey Tracy', because she uses a skateboard to get around, Tracy hasn't let her disability slow her down.

Naturally, there are some things she simply can't do on her own, like going to the cinema, sporting events or anything that involves a crowd where she could be trampled or where she needs her mobility scooter, which she can't load into and out of her car on her own.

Recently, Tracy applied for a disability companion card so that someone could assist her. Incredibly, National Disability Services knocked her back ...apparently she's not disabled enough.

Here is their full statement...

National Disability Services Statement:

Companion Card is not a disability card, Centrelink manages the disability pension card and carers cards that entitles card holders to discounted ticketing. In NSW there are currently 24,000 Companion Card holders. In contrast it is expected the NDIS will cover 150,000 people in NSW.

Companion Card is a card designed to ensure people who have a disability or who are elderly and are unable to access the community without a support person are not discriminated against through being required to purchase two tickets. The program is supported by government services and private companies who voluntarily issue a second free ticket to card holders. To be eligible for a card an applicant must be unable to access the community without a support person.

Companion Card eligibility is strictly monitored as private companies are forgoing revenue to ensure their venues and services are accessible to all Australians. Companion Card NSW aims to be open, transparent and to support applicants through the application process. We have an open review process of all decisions including an external review committee made up of independent health professionals. All applicants as part of the Companion Card NSW application process have the opportunity to request a review of the assessor's decision. All applicants are notified in writing of their right to appeal a decision when they are informed of the outcome of their application. This information is also available on the Companion Card NSW website.

The eligibility criteria for Companion card is national. All states and territories operate using criteria set by the Victorian Network On Recreation & Disability and the Victorian Government.

Why was Tracy Barrell not issued a Companion card?

In the case of Tracy Barrell, an application for a Companion Card was received on 9/6/2015 and declined on 29/6/2015 because according to the information provided, in most situations the applicant can independently access the community with appropriate prescribed aids and equipment. Tracy Barrell did not contact Companion card to request a review.

Companion Card can only rely on the information provided by applicants and their support organisations when making an initial assessment. These assessments are conducted by trained allied health professionals with extensive experience in assessing people with disability. We have resources to follow applicants after the initial assessment should it be required. This can include phone conversations, home visits and discussions with support services and advocates. Should Tracy Barrell have contacted Companion Card following her initial rejected applications we would have immediately commenced a review.

Did your organisation bow to media pressure and simply give Tracy a card?

Companion Card NSW was informed of an online petition over the weekend and instigated a review of the application on Monday morning. This is standard process when we are informed that an applicant is unhappy with approval decision. The first step in any review is a phone based conversation with the applicant. These conversations are an opportunity for applicants to provide further information. It is not unusual to identify further details about how an applicant participates in the community from these phone calls and to update the initial application.