One of the major concerns for parents of kids with disabilities has always been what is available for them once their school life is over.
, every student is entitled to 24 semesters of schooling in the public system. At the end of that period, parents of students with disabilities can request an additional period of time at school (starting with one semester) but they have to be able to prove that this will help the student to achieve independence. In addition, it needs approval up the bureaucratic chain - it's not something that a school principal can authorise. Queensland
When I retired from the Principalship five years ago, there was also a scheme which, on parental application, provided resources to allow the student with a disability to transition effectively to life after school. For some, this meant full or part time employment, but for most (we're talking students with severe impairments in special schools) it meant placement in some kind of life enhancing activity.
The job I do now means that I'm not personally involved in this phasing from school to beyond, unless students on my caseload are of the appropriate age. As is happens, for the first time in five years that I've been doing this work, I now support two students in bush schools with disabilities who will be leaving school in the next two years.
I therefore set about brushing up on the latest and greatest of what is available for this particular cohort so that I could do the best job possible with these two.
Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that in the five years since I've been out of the full-time harness, the scheme I referred to has been rationalised out of existence. This has occurred because these transition services have been privatised.
In effect, the agencies given the contracts will not help students with high level support needs, because they're paid on results (employment placements) and like it or not, there are a group of students who because of profound and complex impairments simply cannot perform paid work.
So as a community, we have actually gone backwards in terms of support for this vulnerable group and their parents. Youngsters from rural and remote locations (the kids I work with) are further disadvantaged because there is almost no local infrastructure (day occupational centres - respite care - itinerant care services) available.
It's bizarre that in the headlong rush to outsource everything (with the possible exception of executive government) the very basic needs of people with disabilities have been swamped by the ideology that demands that there is a market solution for everything.