People with disability

January 20, 2013

The Socialist Alliance endorses the principle of self-determination and empowerment of people with disability as the central approach for the design, implementation and monitoring of a new structure to coordinate disability rights, including services and supports. That means people with disability and their organisations must control the decision making process.

The Socialist Alliance believes that doing so will provide for a structure and a way of coordination that is informed by experts, effective and efficient. It will deliver adequate financial resources channelled to services, support structures and directly to people with disability.

It is possible to achieve an inclusive society with major improvements in the economic, social and cultural participation, health and life experiences of people with disability and their families. Apart from the human rights of such an approach it is believed that inclusion of this nature would result in overall economic savings across expenditures for health, social security, education and employment.

A decision making approach to integrate disability as part of every day life, controlled by people with disability and their organisations will further contribute to speedy changes of structural and legislative barriers that currently prohibit the equitable participation of people with disability.

Rights and Principles that require immediate enacting and are supported by the Socialist Alliance, include:

  • universal accessible housing standards and regulation, to allow all people to access their homes across their life time;
  • universal accessible transport standards and regulation, to allow all people to move freely across their life time;
  • universal accessible building standards and regulation, to allow all people to fully participate and enjoy social, economic, political, recreational and cultural activities;
  • federal legislation mirroring rights as articulated in the UNCRPD;
  • Application of the Disability Discrimination Act to the Social Security Act and the Migration Act;
  • legislating the right to use AUSLAN.

The Socialist Alliance commits to the following benchmark positions:

Income

The Socialist Alliance supports an indexation of the Disability Support Pension payments to a level, which adequately covers the costs of living, including housing and transport. We will also support a discontinuation of the need for constant reassessment of a person's eligibility to the DSP once established to minimise stress, expenses and discomfort.

Employment participation should not be stifled as it is currently through loss of entitlement to the DSP. Entitlement to the DSP needs to stay in place once employment has been secured at least for a period of two years. This minimises pressures on the person for instance to stay in inappropriate or meaningless jobs and allows for savings to occur addressing long term poverty. The DSP needs to be reinstated without lengthy assessment once cut off to minimise income delays and to allow for episodic disability.

For people able to secure employment access to the healthcare card, access to services, equipment, aids and associated concessions must remain unchanged taking into account additional cost of living for people with disability.

Education

The Socialist Alliance believes that education is critical for people with disability and all children with learning and/or developmental delay. The quality education and associated positive experiences in education will have an enormous impact on their lives. This impact is not only in terms of qualifications but equally important in terms of self confidence, independence, decision making, social skills and peer support.

In order to make education a positive experience through all levels of education from kindergarten to tertiary education sufficient funds must be made available for:

  • the choice of access to a mainstream, local school with guaranteed accessibility, adequate supported teaching staff (needs based not funds based);
  • sufficient aids and equipment, and support workers/classroom integration aides in all school as required per individual circumstance (assessed on case by case basis, by school staff, families and the student, not a bureaucrat);
  • support workers/classroom integration aides to enable children to access school tutoring, before and after school care and school holiday programs, pre-school and recreational activities;
  • for those choosing education through special schools, a move towards decentralisation of special schools with low student-teacher ratios allowing for short travel time in dedicated school buses.

All school children need to be educated about the human rights and equality of people with disability.

Employment

The Socialist Alliance believes that it is essential to set targets for access and participation of people with disability in employment to address the current inequity.

Targets for employment participation are not to be seen as stand alone. They must be part of a support structure for people with disability in employment based on the individual circumstances. This may relate to the type of work, aids and equipment, and level of assisted support required.

Initially a target of 10% of jobs within the public sector (federal, state, local) needs to be set; of those 50% must be allocated to women with disability, 30% to people from NESB or culturally diverse backgrounds, and 10% to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These figures are based on population data and weighted to address current inequities through affirmative action targets.

The initial target for the private sectors should be 5% with the same breakdown of targets for women, people from NESB and culturally diverse backgrounds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Companies with 50 or more employees will be required to identify dedicated job positions for people with disability, increasing with size. Penalties for not meeting these targets must be high to avoid penalties seen as a cheaper option.

The Socialist Alliance pledges to support campaigns for the following:
  • Removal of “Supported Wage System” clauses from all industrial awards, minimum wages must be guaranteed for all jobs. All workers are guaranteed unhindered protection of Equal Opportunities provisions in all aspects of their employment including their level of pay;
  • Repeal of the draconian federal Welfare to Work legislation. These provisions force people with disability and other disadvantaged income support recipients to search for work, irrespective of personal circumstances. The Legislation fails to address barriers to gaining employment that offer meaningful jobs with liveable wages;
  • Guarantee job security for people with disability including those of episodic nature, to take time out from work when required;
  • Minimum wage for all workers in sheltered workshops and the right to organise through unions of their choice. Workshops that claim to be non-viable on minimum wages should either receive a top up for wages to ensure workers are not financially disadvantaged. Alternatively, these workshops can be nationalised and management committees consisting of workers and their families, union representatives should be encouraged. All sheltered workshops must develop individualised support and career plans with their workers with the aim to move them into the open employment system.

Aids and equipment

The Socialist Alliance believes that aids and equipment are an entitlement, a right.

This is particularly important given the current lack of availability, high prices and built in obsolescence of wheelchairs and other products which compromise the comfort and safety of people with disability.

Individual circumstances differ greatly with respect to living, social and family environments; each person with disability knows best what it takes for them to live a life with least barriers and most enjoyment. This knowledge must be used as the basis to roll out aids and equipment as required.

24 hours support must be available in case aids and equipment fail to avoid any crisis situation to develop and to minimise any stress on people.

Measures to combat violence

Women with disability experience the same types of violence as other women in the community that is, physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse. Women with disability also experience forms of violence particular to their situation.

Women with disability tend to be less respected or valued for who they are; poorer than other women; and they experience more isolation and can be more dependent on partners, family members or carers. Because of this, women with disability can be vulnerable to forms of abuse that do not fit traditional definitions of domestic or family violence. These included withholding equipment, food and medication; limiting access to communication devices; and threats of institutionalisation.

Research has established that women with disability experience violence at a higher rate, for longer periods, and are less likely to report the abuse than women without disability. Women are sometimes coerced into accepting sterilisation and strongly discouraged from relationships, sex and bearing and rearing children, all contrary to human rights.

The experience of violence against short statured people is common and expresses itself in bullying including “dwarf throwing” competitions.

All people with disability are more likely to experience some form of verbal, physical or sexual violence as they may be in a lesser position to defend themselves and are thus more vulnerable to abuse.

The Socialist Alliance calls for and supports:
  • widespread community education campaigns to counter stigma, stereotypes about people with disability and aims to lift their status and value in society; targeted campaigns must be developed for specific cultural and language groups; campaigns must use various formats including written, audio, video, Braille;
  • increased resources to the women's sector to guarantee accessibility; to allow women with disability being supported effectively after threat or incidence of violence and to empower women to pursue perpetrators;
  • increased resources towards domestic/family violence prevention programs;
  • setting up of a special taskforce within community policing to immediately respond to and investigate allegations of abuse, with far reaching powers and resources to address situations in a way that is effective in stopping the violence, removing the perpetrator where this is the best course of action, empowering the person violated against and is educative to others in the immediate environment;
  • immediate funding for up-skilling of the community, legal, advocacy and disability service workforce in domestic and family violence and cultural security.

Children and young people with disability

Early intervention is critical for all children with developmental delay, diagnosed or undiagnosed and children with disability.

The Socialist Alliance calls for and supports:
  • increased funding to eliminate all waiting lists for early intervention services;
  • no caps on equipment and aids, services and support;
  • increased funding for training to paediatricians to direct parents to appropriate
  • services as soon as a assessment or diagnosis is sought;
  • guaranteed early intervention playgroups that are local, free, and culturally secure
  • and respectful;
  • ensure a supportive environment for parents/caregivers to access quality information on specific issues of delay and disability and available services/programs;
  • special programs need to be developed for young children who need speech therapy in languages other than English so that their therapy is being conducted in a language the children are learning to speak, as well as introducing them to English. Recruitment of child development and speech therapists from overseas who can help migrant families access relevant early intervention programs needs to
  • be pursued;
  • guaranteed local toy libraries with intellectually and physically stimulating toys, free
  • of charge;
  • guaranteed local support groups and activities for parents and siblings of children
  • with disability or developmental delay;
  • guaranteed free respite services to all families of people with disability of all ages,
  • ranging from caring within the home, to occasional care to residential care. For children in state care, respite services and residential care must be controlled by residents, families/caregivers and independent advocates. They must be adequately funded to ensure quality of life and individual choice for all residents.

Transition into adulthood

Young people with disability have the right to live an independent life and to be in control of their life choices. This may require varying levels of domestic and personal support, aids and equipment.

Programs need to be developed towards individualised employment pathways and housing alternatives.

The Socialist Alliances opposes the use of nursing homes as housing options for young people as they lack age specific stimulation and recreation programs and deny young people to socialise with peers.

Housing

The Socialist Alliance is committed to housing that is accessible, affordable and integrated. People with disability currently are too often forced into institutions, like nursing homes, due to the lack of housing that meets their needs.

Accessible

People with disability often cannot find housing that allows them to simply get in the front door. In addition they need housing that is permanent, not temporary or transitional accessible housing that is provided in some situations.

Accessible housing standards and requirements must be introduced that are monitored and enforced:

  • all new ground floor housing must be accessible;
  • all requests for accessibility modifications must be implemented if technically possible and not unreasonable; government funds must be made available for private landpersons to meet such requests.

Affordable

People with disability frequently live in poverty, often relying on social security
income alone.

Affordable housing demands:
  • rent to be capped at 20% of income;
  • gap between 20% of income and actual privately paid rent to be provided through government subsidy;
  • doubling of the current public housing stock under accessibility standards.

Integrated

People with disability have been segregated for centuries due to stigma and
negative stereotypes. Segregation has occurred in large state operated institutions and smaller institutions, such as group homes. The perception that people with disability need to be "treated" unfortunately continues in our society today under a medical model of disability.

Housing options for people with disability, therefore, have resembled medical
centres rather than what most people would call a home.

The Socialist Alliance commits to support campaigns for:

  • Immediate closure of the remaining institutions in all states and territories and to replace them with a range of individualised supported housing options based on the choice of the person with disability:
  • housing to be within and throughout the community;
  • all housing developments must include 25% of housing to people with disability; this needs to be non-negotiable and at worst should risk developers losing their licence to operate.

Transport

Independently accessible transport options are critical for people with disability in terms of their right for free movement and self-determination.

The Socialist Alliance calls for and supports:
  • independently accessible public transport for people with disability;
  • free public transport for all people with disability;
  • attendant carers/support workers accompanying people with disability equally travel for free;
  • increased seating and shelter at all bus, train and tram stops for those with mobility limitations;
  • an immediate audit and rectification of safety hazards of our rail system; particular attention needs to be paid to uneven surfaces on platforms and railway crossings which could constitute a tripping hazard or where the wheels of wheelchairs could get caught, unmarked and unsafe platforms for people with vision impairment or blindness, gaps between carriages and between platforms and train doors;
  • all new public transport vehicles to be fully and independently accessible to all types of motorised scooters and wheelchairs and signed including emergency systems for vision impairment and deafness;
  • retrofitting existing trains, trams and buses which are inaccessible to people in wheelchairs (unless replacement is more cost effective);
  • community transport that is door to door, door to public transport services to be implemented through all local councils, adequately resourced to meet demand of local areas at a 24 hour booking minimum;
  • bring maxi taxi service levels and response times into line with other taxi services and increase subsidy of the fare levels at a rate of 75%, up from the current 50%, for people with disability or health problems reliant upon these services. Free maxi taxi service for people with disability unable to access public transport;
  • to improve safety for passengers with disability at stations, all railway stations which are accessible by lift should also have emergency ramp access where possible. This will enable people to access the station in case of lift breakdown or safely exit the station in case of fire. Where ramps are physically impossible alternatives have to be established e.g. additional lifts;
  • to enhance independence for persons with limited mobility and parents with young children, everyone in every suburb and regional centre in Australia should be able to access public transport within 200 metres safe walking distance from their homes (down from the current 400 metre limit specified in the Victorian government's Guidelines for Land Use and Development).

Other transitional arrangements towards a PWD-controlled disability system

Until a new disability inclusive approach to daily life has been implemented critical issues need to be addressed immediately.

The Socialist Alliance calls for and supports:
  • increased funding to disability advocacy organisations and their peak bodies, at a minimum funding will be supplied for 3 full time staff, Executive Officer, Policy Officer and Administration Officer;
  • options of individualised funding to be made available to all people with disability, funding to be based on self-assessment of the person's need. This needs to be supported through qualified, independent and culturally secure advisors. Advisors must be free for those wishing to receive advice and training, and for those not in a position to self-determine;
  • information on disability must be made available to people with disability in the language of their choice and in a way that suits them most, be it visually through DVD productions in various languages, orally via interpreters, or in translated material made available in Braille, audio and other formats as requested. This must be available free of charge;
  • student positions in vocational and tertiary education should be expanded to overcome the shortage of disability support workers, attendant care workers, AUSLAN interpreters, particularly in regional and rural areas. Courses must be developed from a human rights and social model of disability approach;
  • immigration of disability support workers and carers from other countries is encouraged to address shortages and to also address the issue of culturally secure support needs;
  • building codes must ensure that all public buildings have high visibility Braille trails to main entrances, lifts, help desks and other important facilities, including audible information.

National Disability Insurance Scheme

(This section ameded in January, 2019). See also: https://socialist-alliance.org/policy/social-justice/ndis-national-disability-insurance-scheme

In August 2011 the Council of Australian Governments agreed on the need for major reform of disability services after extensive lobbying by people with disability and their advocates. The proposal for a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was an outcome of the Productivity Commission's inquiry into disability care and support. From 1 July 2016 the NDIS was rolled out nationally following three years of trials at specific locations. From the outset, the scheme revealed itself as not being as positive as many had hoped.

Funding

On 1 July 2014 the Medicare levy was increased from 1.5 to 2% in order to provide a stable funding base for NDIS. The Medicare levy is a flat impost on taxable income; not a progressive tax which would require those on larger incomes to pay a proportionally larger share.

From the outset, the NDIS has been something of a political football for the federal Coalition government. In February 2017, on the failure of the Senate to pass a bill intended to cut government spending[i], then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, claimed that the NDIS was left unfunded byLabor and threatened to increase taxation to fund the $22 billion scheme.

In its 2017 budget, the Coalition government pledged to increase the Medicare levy again to 2.5% in order to fund the NDIS shortfall. In April 2018, however, then federal treasurer Scott Morrison announced that the government had abandoned its plan to increase the Medicare levy, claiming that funding would be secured in perpetuity from increased tax receipts resulting from growing the economy.

In order to provide for a reasonable standard of life for the 460,000[ii] people who will access NDIS when it is fully rolled out, NDIS funding must be guaranteed in the short term, through increased taxation on wealth and big business if necessary. While Socialist Alliance maintains that the NDIS should be replaced with a genuine needs based support system, funding for the NDIS must be guaranteed in the meantime.

Who is eligible?

Socialist Alliance believes that all people with disabilities should have access to the NDIS on the basis of self-assessment, regardless of the severity, their age, employment or visa status. Unfortunately, it is proving to be a struggle for many people with disabilities to even access the scheme. This been doubly difficult for those with cognitive disability.[iii]

Those aged over 65, unless already “participants” in the scheme, are ineligible for NDIS funding, leaving older disabled people stranded, particularly as state governments wind back their schemes with the rollout of NDIS.

What’s the plan?

NDIS participants are provided with an annualised “plan”, which details the funding they are to receive in any of a range of line items, such as assistance with personal care, funding for transport, or improved health and well-being. Participants must then take the plan to the disability services provider market and negotiate a service agreement with a provider (or a number of providers for different types of support) to begin receiving NDIS funded support.

The plan is delivered to the participant by the NDIS planner. While a “planning meeting” is held, the final decision about the level and purposes of the funding rests with the bureaucrat. The only means that a participant has to challenge the amount of funding they receive and what it can be spent on is to request a full review of their plan, a lengthy, time-consuming and stressful process, with no guarantee of success. At the end of the year’s funding (sometimes less than a year), the NDIS participant must once again go through the whole process of applying for funding for the next year.

Funding for disability services must be provided on a needs basis. Socialist Alliance believes that people with disabilities should not be forced to justify why they need ongoing funding.

People with a disability should be central to all decision-making. As a first step, a person with disabilities, or their representative, must be able to negotiate directly with the NDIS planner in an open and transparent process to ensure that their needs are properly met, eliminating the need for time consuming reviews.

Participants and providers

People with a disability who receive funding (a plan) from NDIS are described as “participants”. NDIS encourages participants to seek to maximise the amount of service they receive within their plan funding by negotiating payment rates with their support providers (“providers”). In essence, this turns the interests of participants against those of the providers, and their (generally low-paid) staff[iv].

Socialist Alliance believes that the interests of people with disabilities and those who are paid to care for them are aligned, and rejects the attempt of NDIS to turn them against each other. It is in the interest of people with a disability that those who work in the disability sector are properly paid and not forced to work additional hours, or additional jobs, just to make ends meet. Equally, it is in the interests of disability workers to ensure that the people they provide services for are given the best possible support to maximise their ability to engage as full citizens in society.

The NDIS has paved the way for NDIS entrepreneurs, who are investing millions on the expectation of guaranteed revenue (and profits) from the NDIS over the years to come[v]. Socialist Alliance believes that the disability care sector should be community-based and democratically run. The lives of people with a disability are not-for-profit.

Democratic control

Socialist Alliance believes that provision of disability support should be based on the person with a disability’s needs as self-assessed by the individual, where possible (we are all experts in our own body’s needs).

Socialist Alliance believes in democratic governance of all disability funding-support bodies, including the current NDIS. The NDIS should be fundamentally reorganised, with governance provided by a board with the majority of people with a disability. The board should be elected on an annual basis by participants. The board should organise an annual policy conference, open to all people with a disability and their advocates, to set binding policy for the NDIS.

The future of disability care

In the long term, the framework for disability care provision must be the decision of people with disabilities themselves. Socialist Alliance supports empowering people with a disability to make decisions about their future, including the form and content of a national disability support scheme. In that context, Socialist Alliance wishes to be part of a discussion of the future of disability support in Australia, and offers the following policy points as a contribution to that discussion:

  • The Socialist Alliance supports the implementation of a universal and free national system with increased funding as a necessary prerequisite to working towards full participation and inclusion of people with disability and their families in society.
  • People with disability and their organisations must be the central decision-makers in shaping the design, implementation and monitoring of the system.
  • The development of the system must be accompanied by a commitment to legislative and structural changes as they relate to making all infrastructure − housing, public and commercial buildings, transport, education, employment, recreation and culture − fully accessible.
  • Eligibility to the system must not fall into the trap of applying a medical model to disability. It must be inclusive, regardless of type, severity and episodic nature, age, visa status and how disability was acquired. Psycho-social disability must be included.
  • Assessment of requirements for services, support, equipment and aids must be guided by a self-assessment of the person with disability as the expert of their personal and life situation. Where self-assessment is not possible, independent (of government and service providers) culturally appropriate advisers must be consulted in addition to family and carers.
  • Socialist Alliance opposes any attempt – formal or informal – to categorise workers in the sector as being in a “private and domestic” relationship with the person/people they support as this is a convenient ploy to further undermine workers’ wages and conditions.
  • All workers providing support and other services funded by government should receive the same wages and conditions as those currently working within the state public sector.
  • Government must be responsible for ensuring that where relevant services are not readily available (e.g. culturally specific or a service located in a remote or regional area), these services and supports are provided. There must be a flexible, comprehensive service system guaranteed especially as it relates to smaller population and needs groups.

While Socialist Alliance welcomes increased funding to disability services and supports the principle of self-directed and individually tailored supports, we oppose the market service delivery model enshrined in the NDIS in which service providers compete for the disability “consumers’” funding allocation.

The problems of providing disability services with a market-based funding system include:

  • Where governments have moved to a system of competitive tendering for the provision of human services, smaller community-run organisations have been squeezed out by larger organisations with greater economies of scale. A marketised distribution of funding has a similar affect and will almost surely wipe-out those community based organisations struggling to survive on too few resources. This will reduce choice and enable some to get rich at the expense of people with disability.
  • The state based systems have already demonstrated that a marketised system of service delivery cannot provide the full range of necessary supports. For people living in remote and regional areas or with very specific needs, there is often no choice of service provider or no appropriate service available.
  • Under a marketised system, service users will generally try to extend their funding by seeking the lowest cost provider. This has the potential to see people with disabilities being used as a wedge to drive down the wages and conditions of workers in the sector. This has already been seen in WA where people with disabilities (or their families) have been advised that they can increase the hours of direct support they receive by directly employing staff themselves on lower wages or even as “private and domestic” workers who are exempt from the entitlements and protection of WA industrial law.
  • Public funding of disability services should only go to services directly provided by government or to community run, not-for -profit service providers with democratic management structures that actively involve people with disabilities and/or their advocates in their decision-making processes.
  • Private, for-profit organisations should not receive public funding. The direct involvement of people with disabilities and democratic control of service provision is the best way to efficiently allocate funds where they are required.

The support to and inclusion of people with disability is a fundamental human right

The Socialist Alliance supports a national disability system that will genuinely enable the human rights of people with disability. We support a national system that:

  • Meets the needs and reflects the interests of all those with disability.
  • Achieves an equitable system across all states and territories, and across urban, regional and rural areas.
  • Allows for the portability of entitlement across states and territories.
  • Supports people with disability regardless of the nature of that disability or how it was acquired.
  • Works towards the full participation of people with disability and their families in society.