This is the introduction to an article by Sue Corrigan in last weekend's Australian Magazine. (That's Sue and Shane, her 19 year old son, in the pic) -
In a large town in country NSW, three weeks before last Christmas, a mother is preparing breakfast for her severely intellectually disabled 22-year-old son. The young man doesn't know it, because he has the mental age of a toddler, but his mother is planning to drive him to his day activity centre after she has finished feeding him, and then abandon him there.
Exhausted, severely depressed and suffering health problems, this woman has reached her personal breaking point. Later that same morning, she will pack her son's belongings and hand them to state government officials who, forewarned of her decision, have no choice but to take the boy to an emergency respite centre, 100km away, while they search for more permanent accommodation in a group house closer to home. Today, more than three months later, they are still looking.
It's lengthy, and well worth a read if you can get hold of it (it's not on-line), because it sums up pretty well the invidious position of many aged carers in these so-called enlightened times.
I've been working in this field for a long time now (since 1971) and to be honest, the situation for people with disabilities and their carers is getting worse, not better.
It appears that no government, irrespective of political persuasion, is prepared to tackle the problem. The only times I've ever seen a change is when someone in power happens to be the parent of a child with a disability.
The combination of increased materialism, a more selfish community and an aging population have conspired to make life for this 3 - 5% of the population intolerable. Failed policies driven by economic rationalism but dressed up to look like inclusion haven't helped.
The chairman of Yooralla, Victoria's largest disability community organisation, is Bruce Bonyhady. Apart from being a former federal Treasury official, Bonyhady is the father of two sons with cerebral palsy, so he probably knows what he's talking about.
He advocates for a national disability insurance scheme, operating something like Medicare does in the sense that a levy is applied.
Given that disability can become a part of anyone's life in a split second, as a result of an accident, a stroke or something similar, it makes sense. After all, we generally insure our motor cars in anticipation of the possibility of an accident - and one form of this (third party insurance) is compulsory.
It's time the idea was promoted.
I'm off to a statewide conference on the topic on Wednesday. I'll do my best to make sure the idea gets a hearing.
Monday, 30 March 2009
(Image courtesy of the Weekend Australian Magazine).
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