Friday, 14 September 2012

Screw Unto Others

Since the LNP government in Queensland was elected, the following support has been removed from people with disabilities and their families –

It has shut down the Family Support Program, which provides medical aids, incontinence aids and childcare, administered through the Department of Communities. This funding also allowed carers to buy services such as respite care and transport designed to improve lifestyles for this group.

Taxi subsidies to people with disabilities have been capped at $400 per year. This equates to one two-way trip per fortnight, given the current fares.

The Disability Services Support Centre, an agency operating under the umbrella of Education Queensland, will be shut down at the end of the school year. This unit supplied equipment on loan to schools all over Queensland, which made it possible for many students to access schooling and to get the best out of it. It also provided training and support statewide to teachers in regular schools working with these students. It was a vital support structure to kids with disabilities in small remote schools, and there are plenty of those in Queensland.

Consider, for a moment, three different situations I know (no names – no pack drill) effected by these crass decisions.

I’m aware of a family in Toowoomba, with two severely autistic little boys. Prior to the withdrawal of the Family Support Programme, they were able to access funds to allow a once per month weekend break from caring for the boys, who have to be supervised 24/7. This means that only one parent can work, as the autistic behaviours are so severe that placement in Kindy isn’t possible without the provision of a one-on-one supervisor. They were lucky to find a Kindy which allowed the mother to attend with her children, and of course, she had to bring both boys along.

This really wasn’t working so the family were considering using the family support money to employ a support aide at the Kindy for a few hours per week, and to forgo the respite.

With the withdrawal of the Family Support Programme, they don’t have that decision to make now, of course, and are faced with no respite, no Kindy, and if you talk to them – no future.

I know an adult with a disability in Brisbane who relies on taxi transport to take her to her work as a librarian. She has a severe disability, uses a powered wheelchair, and the transport that’s viable is a hoist-equipped maxi-taxi. With the capping of the taxi subsidy, she will run out of transport in two months. She will have no way of getting to work.

Newman’s penny-pinching will mean that unless some benefactor turns up with the shortfall, she will have to resign her job, and become a disability pensioner. In summary, she will cease to be a contributing member of society, and a taxpayer. Quite apart from the economic absurdity of this, it will knock a big hole in her self-esteem. This is a proud young woman who has overcome enormous difficulty to live a dignified and fulfilling life.

Many students in small schools which lack the financial capacity to purchase essential equipment to allow them to access school rely completely on the loan equipment available through the Disability Services Support Unit. When the unit closes at year’s end, this facility will cease to exist.

Most small schools in Queensland have classrooms upstairs. If you no longer have access to a DSSU supplied stairclimbing machine, how do you get to your classroom? 

God knows what will happen to the equipment. My guess is that it will be sold off (at a fire sale of one kind or another) to a bunch of entrepreneurs who will proceed to make a quick quid out of hiring it out to the same schools that were getting the service for free - the market rules - free enterprise will prevail etc.

That notion fits very well with LNP philosophy, but unfortunately it won’t wash in the real world, as these small schools simply don’t have the money to hire equipment all year long. If you have cerebral palsy, or spina bifida, you don’t get better.

Maybe someone needs to point this out to CanDo.

There’s an irony in this. CanDo has effectively become Can’tDo for people with disabilities in Queensland.

The LNP has removed this support to the most vulnerable sector of the community on the basis of a sick ideology. This reeks of zealotry. It has nothing to do with humanity.

In forty years in this field, I’ve seen nothing like it.

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