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Our Voice Matters

Inclusion Australia responds to DSS $1.5m cut to support and services for people with intellectual Inclusion Australia - Logo Icondisability.  

Inclusion Australia (NCID) is the peak body for people with intellectual disability and their families. Inclusion Australia has represented people with intellectual disability for over 60 years with the support of thousands of people and organisations.

In December last year the Department of Social Services decided that the specific voice of people with intellectual disability and their families is not important. Rather, they have decided that people with intellectual disability and their families can be represented by people without disabilities or by people who have a physical or sensory disability. The Board of Inclusion Australia deplores this decision as we believe it will deny people with intellectual disability and their families the opportunity to inform and shape the direction of disability policy and supports, including the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

People with intellectual disability comprise 60-70% of NDIS participants and are the third largest group receiving the DSP. Recent reports have highlighted the need for NDIS to engage with people with intellectual disability and their families to better reflect their needs. As a result, NDIS has agreed to meet with Inclusion Australia on a regular basis to provide that engagement – a measure which is now in jeopardy due to the DSS decision. In the absence of Inclusion Australia, this decision has silenced the collective voice of people with intellectual disability – those most in need of representation at the highest level given their historical marginalisation.

By silencing the voice of the national peak body,the Department of Social Services is removing the opportunity for people with intellectual disability and their families to ensure their needs and interests are adequately considered and safeguarded,  Over many years, Inclusion Australia has effectively advocated on such issues as:

  • the need for increased funding
  • the need for increased employment support
  • the right to better pay and conditions for intellectual disability employees
  • the right to support for inclusive education
  • the need for adequate income support
  • the right to live in the community
  • the need for better housing and support
  • the right to self-management of funding
  • the need to end abuse and bullying, and
  • the need for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

The Department’s decision to defund Inclusion Australia sits alongside their decision to abandon funding to all other peak disability population groups cutting services and support to people with disability by $1.5 million. With the Abbott Government’s ambitious welfare reform agenda and the rollout of the NDIS, now is not the time for the Department of Social Services to be silencing the very voices they need to be hearing from.

People with intellectual disability want to work, to get more money, to do things in their community. But, if we do not have our own say how can we be part of it? Why does the government not want to hear from us?” Judy Huett, Chairperson of Our Voice (self advocacy committee of Inclusion Australia’s Board)

Inclusion Australia calls on the Abbott Government to review this retrograde decision of the Department of Social Services that breaches the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The Convention recognises people with intellectual disability as a distinct disability population and also stresses the obligation to involve people with a significant disability in the monitoring of the Convention and the development of government policy and its implementation.

”Inclusion Australia has been at the forefront of helping to define the need for the National Disability Strategy and the NDIS,” states Kevin Stone, Inclusion Australia President, ”The success of the NDIS for people with intellectual disability depends on us being there to shape the design and support the implementation. Without the strong representation of our national peak, the specific needs and interests of people with intellectual disability and their families will be overlooked, every time.’’

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Grandstanding is not Advocacy

Grandstanding is not advocacy! Creating fear and uncertainty where certainty exists is not a responsible position by an advocacy organisation. Recently commentary on overseas travel by people on the DSP has been sensational instead of accurate.

Inclusion Australia and Minister Andrews went to considerable trouble last November to clarify the position of people with intellectual disability in relation to overseas travel. People who are on the DSP due to a ‘manifest’ condition are able to travel overseas for any period of time, they are not restricted to 4 weeks. People with intellectual disability (IQ score <70) have a ‘manifest’ condition.

The failure to clearly state the real position for all people with disability has created unnecessary confusion and anxiety for people with intellectual disability and their families. This is not acceptable.

The joint information sheet by Minister Andrews and Inclusion Australia can be read here

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Inclusion Australia is here to stay …

Dear Members and Friends,

over the last couple of days there has been a lot of conjecture about the future of Inclusion Australia following our unsuccessful application for funding to the Abbott Government. Our application for funding to represent people with intellectual disability and their families to the Commonwealth Government was not successful – no applications on behalf of people with intellectual disability and their families were!

Minister Andrews, in his previous capacity as Minister for Social Services, decided that the voice of people with intellectual disability and their families has no value; despite people with intellectual disability being 70% of NDIS participants and the third largest group in receipt of the DSP. His decision is clearly at odds with the Prime Minister’s stated aim of including all Australians in the social and economic life of their communities; and importantly increasing the number of people on DSP in the workforce.

Inclusion Australia has always been a constructive partner in the development and implementation of Commonwealth policy and while this decision is disappointing it will not silence us from ‘having a say’ in the welfare reforms that will dominate 2015 and ongoing development of the NDIS.

Inclusion Australia has a strong membership base of over 5,000 and though the Commonwealth funding would enable us to have more constructive contact with them, we are not dependent on this funding and will continue to work with people with intellectual disability and their families and represent their best interests.

Kevin Stone – President

Mark Pattison – Executive Director

Read media release from Australian Federation of Disability Consumer Organisations (AFDO)

Old sheltered workshop

National Organisations applaud the Senate

National Peak Disability Consumer and Advocacy Organisations applaud the Senate vote to block the passing of the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) Payment Scheme Bill 2014.

In blocking the Bill, the Senate has shown support for the human rights of people with disability to seek fair and full compensation for lost wages through the Federal Court.

We honour the courage of Michael Nojin, Gordon Prior, Tyson Duval-Comrie, with the support of their families, to stand up for their right as people with disability for just and equitable conditions of work.

Paul Cain of Inclusion Australia said “The Federal and High Courts of Australia determined that BSWAT discriminates against people with intellectual disability in the assessment of award wages”.

“Thousands of people with disability who work in Australian Disability Enterprises have been paid, and continue to be paid, wages less than they would be entitled to if they were paid under a fair and equitable award wage assessment system” said Samantha French of People with Disability Australia.

Kairsty Wilson of AED Legal Centre said “Rejection of the BSWAT Bill means that people with disability will maintain their right to legal redress for discrimination in employment and will have their full entitlement to back pay determined by the independence of the Federal Court”.

We are thankful for the political and moral leadership of the Hon. Jenny Macklin MP of the ALP; Senator Rachel Siewert and Adam Bandt MP of The Australian Greens, and Independent Senators Jacqui Lambie, Nick Xenophon, and John Madigan, as well as their advisors and staff who all saw the injustice and steadfastly voted against the Bill.

We acknowledge the work of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights chaired by Senator Dean Smith, which found that the BSWAT Payment Scheme Bill was not a just remedy for the discrimination ruled by the courts.

The National Peak Disability Consumer and Advocacy Sector calls on the Commonwealth to:

With all deliberate speed, negotiate a fair compensation settlement for workers with disability, who experienced discrimination and lost wages as a result of BSWAT, in response to the representative action in the Federal Court.

Commit to abolishing BSWAT and transition to the Supported Wage System (SWS) for all employees with disability in ADEs to ensure fairness and equity in the determination of award wages; and,

Consult with people with disability and their representative organisations on the best way to proceed with this transition and a full and fair settlement.

Media: Paul Cain, Inclusion Australia 0419 462 928 or Kairsty Wilson, AED Legal Centre 0411 252 410

Download the media release

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A big day for the rights of people with intellectual disability – part 2

To Whom It Should Concern – Part 2

An alarming concern of individuals, families, advocates and support staff is that reported abuse is frequently not properly investigated and addressed by the current system. Many complaints of abuse have not been addressed due to authorities not taking such complaints seriously and undertaking a full investigation.

We acknowledge that such investigations present a range of difficulties for investigators, but this should never be used a reason for failing to investigate and determine the merits of abuse complaints.

There is little doubt that a national inquiry into the abuse of people with disability in institutional settings has merit. It presents an opportunity for this dark issue to be brought out into the light. Organisations responsible for standards of service and the well being of people with disability for which they receive tax payer’s dollars should be held accountable for abuse that happens as a result of their service.

The media statement by the Disability Advocacy Network of Australia quite rightly emphasises the failure of mainstream governance and quality assurance mechanisms to protect the basic rights of people with significant disability. Governance processes, standards audits of services, internal complaint procedures, incident reports, and many other provider processes are important but clearly insufficient.

One of the most needed solutions is an abuse response system – external to disability service providers – that individuals, families, service staff, advocates or “whistleblowers” can bring complaints and concerns to, knowing that allegations of abuse WILL be investigated.

There needs to be confidence that someone with authority WILL actively investigate complaints of abuse.

Today’s refusal by the Federal Government to respond to calls from the community to hold a national inquiry into the abuse of people with disability – by relying on the Victorian government’s commitment to an inquiry – is a failure of national political leadership.

It begs the question as to how the federal government can expect organisations to provide support which prevents and eliminates abuse when the federal government shows a complete disregard for the urgency to act. This sends the wrong message to potential abusers.

What we need is a review of federal priorities. It only requires the change of one word . . “Stop the boats abuse”.

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A big day for the equal rights of people with intellectual disability – part 1

To Whom It Should Concern – Part 1

Monday 24th November 2014 has been a big day for standing up for the equal rights of people with intellectual disability.

First, the Senate rejected the Government’s bill to introduce the BSWAT Payment Scheme Bill. This Bill was an unjust remedy by the Government to address the discrimination in how the wages of thousands of people with intellectual disability in Australian Disability Enterprises (formerly sheltered workshops) are determined. A discrimination brought to light by two men with disability.

Second, the Australian Law Reform Commission proposed reform to Commonwealth and State laws to ensure that supported decision making is encouraged with the right support; and that representative decision-makers are appointed only as a last resort. The need to be supported in making decisions has never been more pertinent given the NDIS and the emphasis on choice and control.

Third, ABC 4 Corners exposed sexual abuses of people with disability by carers employed by Yooralla, and a governance culture that was inadequate to protect people with disability from this abuse.

The 4 Corners program highlight a number of characteristics of people with significant disability which are apparent. Characteristics that are under-recognised but common across the events of the day.

1. People with significant disability are vulnerable to abuse, neglect and discrimination . .  be it physical, sexual abuse or abuse of equal rights in employment.

2. People with significant disability are “easily led”. People with disability can be used and abused to meet the needs of others at the expense of their rights.

3. People with significant disability are sometimes unable to give valid consent – even after the best supported decision making support.

4. People with significant intellectual disability in segregated employment or accommodation services may have heightened vulnerability because “those who are watching” are just as vulnerable as the people targeted for abuse.

4. People with significant disability often have great difficulty in reporting abuse on their own.

When these “facts” or “characteristics” are considered carefully, there is a strong basis for accommodations and safeguards that are put in place rather than reliance on typical due processes or governance that may be acceptable in other circumstances.

For example, many employees with intellectual disability in ADEs are highly vulnerable to the interests of ADE staff and employers. Many employees in ADEs are easily led to vote for a certified agreement when valid consent is questionable.  It is not a coincidence that people with intellectual disability are subject to discriminatory employment practices in how award wages are assessed.

The Senate decision to reject the BSWAT Bill will ensure that the independence of the Federal Court will ensure that people with intellectual disability – discriminated by the Commonwealth and ADEs – are properly compensated. In other words, why would we let the “discriminator” determine the quantum of compensation and the process or redress. We must also note that some of the sexual abuse identified by 4 Corners involved employees in ADEs. This is not to suggest a juxtaposition between ADEs and abuse – but to point out that people with intellectual disability are vulnerable and this is vulnerability is heightened when grouped with others people with disability in segregated places.

We must also begin to recognise that Australia spends substantial amounts of money on disability support services – and this will only increase under the NDIS. As we saw in the 4 Corners report, there was evidence of “scamming” with clients that did not exist. I have also listened to families who are heavily marketed by disability services competing for the cash families bring to providers when they register for support. This means that – more than ever – advocacy and safeguards against abuse are important(!)

Unfortunately the “angelic” image of disability services is naive.

As 4 Corners point out, there are clearly service providers and staff who are impeccable in their competence and fidelity with the rights and dignity of people with intellectual disability. While addressing the very serious issues of abuse across all disability services we must support those services and staff who are doing ‘the right thing’.

Qantas over sydney

Travelling to another country when on the Disability Support Pension

 There is a rule for how long a person can travel to another country and still get paid the disability pension.

This is called ‘portability’.

The Government wants to change the rule.

The government wants to limit the time a person can be in another country and paid the disability pension to 28 days for every 12 month period.

The government is currently asking the Commonwealth parliament to approve this rule change.

What is the current portability rule?

A person will continue to be paid the disability pension when in another country for a time limit of 6 weeks.

There are exceptions to the rule.

Some people who get the disability pension can stay in another country and be paid the disability pension without any time limit.

This is called ‘unlimited portability’.

People who get the DSP are eligible for unlimited portability if they are;

  • assessed as having a severe impairment and no future work capacity,
  • terminally ill,
  • paid under Australia’s international social security agreements and assessed as severely disabled, or
  • assessed as manifestly eligible for the disability pension.

The government is not changing these exceptions to the rule.

What does this mean for people with intellectual disability?

A person with intellectual disability manifestly qualifies for the disability pension if they have an IQ of less than 70.

A person who manifestly qualifies for the disability pension meets the eligibility for unlimited portability of their pension, without need for assessment of their impairment or work capacity.

People with intellectual disability and their families can plan overseas travel knowing that pension eligibility and payments will continue without change.