Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Candidates' Debate (2) (Disabilities)

From my point of view, action in support of people disabilities is a major issue in the federal election.

There are personal reasons for this, but I've also worked in the field, in one form or another, since 1971. Not to put too fine a point on it, the plight of people with disabilities and their carers in this country is a national disgrace, and it's getting worse (particularly in the bush) rather than better.

Let's have a look at what candidates for Groom have to offer specifically on this issue.

Candidate A -

I searched this candidate's page for about ten minutes, using a range of terms, but the best I could do was this listing of the deficiencies of the current situation -

Equity and portability of funding - the difference between funding in a government school and non-government school is unfair and unsustainable. Fundamentally, the funding should follow the child.
More training for teachers and teacher's aides must be undertaken so that these educators can better support these children.
Parents are exhausted and need more support across the board with less red tape.
There are substantial problems with different definitions of disabilities and too many children are falling through the gaps.

There was also a report that this party would be providing an allowance for parents to receive grants of up to $20000 to support their child with a disability at a private school. Unfortunately, this seems to have vanished without trace, and there is no reference to it on the party's website. I'd be happy to be informed on this if anyone out there has better information.
In summary, then, candidate A doesn't appear to have any policies in this area.

Candidate B - 

The party's website lists three major policies or initiatives -
A Better Start for Children with Disability, Supported Accommodation initiatives and support for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
From the website -  

A Better Start for Children with Disability will ensure children with disabilities that affect their development have access to intensive early intervention therapies and treatments from expert health professionals.
Children diagnosed with sight and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or Fragile X syndrome will benefit under the program. Children under six with a diagnosis of a listed disability will be eligible to receive up to $12,000 for early intervention services.
A maximum of $6,000 can be spent in any financial year. Families will have up to their child’s seventh birthday to use the funding.
A number of new Medicare funded diagnosis and treatment services will also be made available for children diagnosed before the age of 13 years with these conditions.
Families will be able to access the treatment items up to their child’s fifteenth birthday.
Supported Accommodation initiatives -
Community organisations are uniquely placed to develop accommodation and respite options that capitalise on local support and resources, and meet the needs of people with disability and their carers in an inventive way.
Projects could include a modern renovation of an existing home so it can be used for supported accommodation, pooled resources to build a contemporary facility close to local community and health services to provide overnight respite, or expanding an established facility to provide more places.
Up to 150 additional places are expected to be delivered through the $60 million investment that will be provided under this initiative.
The Strategy has been developed in consultation with people with disability, the community, State and Territory Governments and local governments. It outlines a nationwide approach to improving the lives of people with disability.
National Disability Insurance Scheme -
This candidate's party will take the National Disability Strategy to the Council of Australian Governments early next term.

Candidate C -

Principles -
People have a right to independence, self-determination and choice in their lives.
There are a variety of medical, societal and environmental reasons why peoples' individual abilities differ; disability arises when society fails to accommodate these differences and creates, or fails to remove, barriers to equitable access for all.
People, who experience disability, and their families and carers, should have the opportunity to actively participate in policy and service planning and delivery.
It is a primary responsibility of governments to ensure equality of opportunity, to promote attitudinal change, and to provide funding to ensure this in areas of education, health, housing, mobility, employment and sporting, cultural and social engagement.
People who experience disability to be integrally involved in all levels of decision and policy making, including in their own service development and delivery.
People to participate fully in all aspects of life, including education, training and employment, regardless of disability.
People to have access, where necessary, to appropriate facilities and support personnel in order for them to be able to undertake their chosen activities.
The Commonwealth, State and Territories Disability Agreement to deliver clear and timely policy, funding and service delivery responsibilities and outcomes.
Guaranteed decent incomes, support and services for people with disability and their carers.
Strengthen and provide funding for disability advocacy services, community education programs, and the removal of structural barriers to equality of access to education, training and employment.
Ensure a guaranteed decent income by increasing Disability Support Pension payments to adequately cover medical, transport, equipment and accommodation costs.
Restore the Disability Support Pension eligibility to the pre-July 2006 criteria as a minimum.
Remove the punitive assessment and work requirement levels and job capacity assessments introduced in the Welfare to Work Act 2005 whilst ensuring sufficient places for all people seeking training.
Provide meaningful employment and training opportunities which take into account the specific needs of people with disability.
Allow full tax deductability for any aids, devices, special equipment or services which directly assist people with disability in finding and maintaining employment.
Remove GST and import duty from specialist aids, devices, appliances and services for people with disability.
Provide parents, partners, relatives and friends who act as carers with eligibility for registration as professional carers and adequate support, including income and respite.
Enact national standards to protect people with disability, where required, via monitoring, investigative powers and enforcement.
Increase funding for appropriate, including age-appropriate, accommodation and support services for people with disability, including flexible accommodation models.
Increase funding for high quality, age-appropriate institutional care for people with very high and complex care needs.
Provide increased respite care services and facilities, in-home and emergency support, crisis accommodation and a range of supported accommodation options.
Adequately resource pathways that support school leavers with disability to make the transition from school into meaningful employment, educational and vocational programs or other community-based activities.
Support access to specialised employment support services for people with disability who choose to enter the workforce.
Improve access to training, development and personal support to staff working in disability services, and adopt workforce measures to increase the professional mix of staff.
Improve pay and conditions and career structures for providers of services for people with disabilities.
Strengthen national disability access standards. 

Candidate D -

There is simply no mention of this issue on this candidates' site. The closest you get to it is this comment on Health -

Our socialized medical system is having the same problems as all other similar systems in the world- they are rising costs, lengthening waiting lists, slipping standards, sluggish bureaucracy and political duck-shoving.

Candidate E -


Believes Australians with an intellectual, neurological or physical disability should be respected as full and equal members of society. This respect should be reflected in their full participation in our community, rather than their current marginalisation;

Is concerned about the Productivity Commission's findings that people with a disability were less likely to finish school, to have a TAFE or university qualification or be employed.

They earn less than half the average income and are more likely to be in public housing; believes that work is important for self esteem and well being and that one way to improve employment prospects is to improve skills and education.


She wants to establish a National Disability Insurance Scheme. This scheme will cover every Australian who is born with a disability or acquires a disability and will provide funding for essential care, support, therapy, aids, equipment, home modifications, and access to the community, education and training;

supports initiatives to make it easier for people with a disability to access education and learning, such as by finishing school or attending TAFE or university; urges the Government and private sector employers to promote the benefits of employing people with disabilities. Working with people who have disabilities promotes

understanding and respect for people who are different and have special needs;

supports initiatives to ensure people with a disability can participate more fully in the paid workforce;

She supports improvements to health services to improve health care for people with a disability;

She supports fair and adequate income support and care for people with severe disabilities to ensure a fulfilling life with opportunity for social, recreational and creative activities.

My conclusions -

I reserved my judgement last post in relation to education. This comparison is relatively straightforward. Candidates B and E have superior policies, and the clincher for me is support for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Candidate B represents a party which has a far better track record on the issue in power, and this clinches it for me.

Candidate B is the winner.

Postscript -
For those of you who use Facebook, this site supports the adoption of an NDIS. 

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