Policy Submission: National Disability Strategy for Australia
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The purpose of this submission is to inform the Australian Government about ways in which a National Disability Strategy can ensure that people living with disability1 are active citizens in the community and are supported in ways that meet their individual needs and circumstances.
Recommendation 1: Introduce Self-directed Funding packages for people living with disability
Such funding arrangements provide people living with disability with the flexibility to respond to their individual needs and circumstances through having full control over the decisions about the support they receive. This can have ‘a positive impact on quality of life, as reflected in areas such as making choices, achieving goals, participating in the community, and growing relationships’. JFA believes that such benefits demonstrate how Selfdirected Funding can play a major role in achieving the proposed outcomes of a National Disability Strategy. Attached as appendix B and appendix C are two monographs that give further information on the reported benefits of Selfdirected Funding and considerations for its implementation.
Recommendation 2: Establish proactive ‘front foot’ planning arrangements that focus on supporting the strengths and capacities of people living with disability
Such arrangements should have the following characteristics:
- The plan should be proactive so that people don’t have to wait until their lives are in crisis before something happens;
- The plan should recognise and build on the strengths and capabilities that people have;
- The plan should take a broader view of the person’s life, beyond personal care, equipment and therapy, and into areas such as employment, relationships, voice, belonging and aspirations.
JFA believes that through focusing on proactive and strength-based individual planning, human service systems will be more effective in their response to how people living with disability wish to live their lives.
Recommendation 3: Investment in community capacity
In addition to the allocation of disability support funding to individual people via self-directed funding, we believe that Government should make a separate investment in growing the capacity of communities to be properly inclusive of people living with disability. This can include for example:
- Establishing mechanisms that make stronger demands on government and community organisations in terms of participation in organisational decision-making by people living with disability;
- Proper investment in the generic training of professionals such as
- Architects, town planners and other building industry personnel,
- Transport industry personnel,
- Health and community service professionals;
- Raising awareness among employers across all workforces, on the benefits of workplace diversity and the intrinsic value of employees with disability;
- Greater connectivity between federal, state, territory and local government planning and services, so that there is a greater coherence and cohesion in the development on truly inclusive communities;
- Arrangements to ensure that all new building work, including renovations to existing buildings, conform to clear accessibility standards;
- Training to disability support staff to ensure that they support people living with disability in ways that honour and reflect the person’s dignity and uphold the person’s personal authority;
- Development of a new approach for promoting the disability sector as a valued career choice, to successfully attract those people most likely to uphold the values of personal authority, social inclusion and capacitybuilding
- Government investment in services that build inclusion, rather than investing in services that ‘train’ people and their families to be excluded and separated. For example, when families first learn they have a child with disability, the focus of Government funding should be on family capacity-building and community inclusion, and not for example having separate pre-schools for kids because they happen to have been labelled autistic.
Recommendation 4: Accountable action in support of achieving positive outcomes for people living with disability
JFA believes that in order for the system to become more responsive to the needs of people living with disability, a National Disability Strategy needs to focus on mechanisms which support the system to measure and monitor the extent to which their needs are being met. A theme which emerged from The Loop 2008 conference was the lack of ongoing measures to check that funded disability organisations are providing the services they claim to provide and the extent such services are useful to people living with disability11. There needs to be clear outcome-based measurements in service agreements to ensure that providers are properly accountable for assisting people living with disability to make genuine progress in terms of personal authority and active citizenship.
Recommendatrion 5: Provision of inclusive services within society
All services across the government, commercial and community sectors should be inclusive and accessible to people living with disability and this should be enforced via effective legislation.