Category: News

Checking in ...

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

Inclusion Australia - Logo Icon

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

know your rights lg

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”.

know your rights lg

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.

Interaction logo 274

Who am I?

Who am I?

Who am I, is a very loaded and contested question for people with disability. A question of identity.

For decades people with disability have had this personal question answered by others. Their identity as a person with disability has been described and viewed by people without a disability. I was prompted to think about this by Andrew Solomon as I read his book, Far from the Tree. An inquiry into identity, or more rightly identities; how some children are born with an identity that sharply contrasts with the identity of their parents, or the identity that their parents wish for them.

Andrew Solomon looks at groups of people who fall ‘far from the family tree’ and how they relate to their families and the community. The groups that he looks at include people with Down Syndrome, people who are deaf, people of short stature and people with multiple disabilities. A fascinating book from a man who himself fell ‘far from his family tree’.

Andrew Solomon uses the concepts of vertical identity and horizontal identity as the framework for his discussion, the vertical being the family, the horizontal being the person’s peer group – those others who they identify with as being members of their community.

Identity whether defined by us or others is closely linked to the language we use to describe ourselves or others; it is language which includes, affirms my identity as a member of my community or excludes me from my community by segregating me or hiding me from public view.

Over the last 10 years identity has become a crucial issue for people with disability as the conceptualisation of disability as a medical condition to be fixed/cured was challenged by the social model of disability which attempted to describe a person with disability as an interaction between the disabling aspects of society and the impairment of the person. The emphasis became not on the person with disability but on society and the identities of people with disability became subsumed under a generic catchall ‘people with disabilities’ as the focus was on society. This strong reaction to the medical approach was needed to bring about the conceptual change that was necessary but in the creation of the vertical ‘disability’ identity people lost the horizontal connection with their peer group, with people who have the same distinct life experiences as themselves.

The social model of disability is now being challenged by the human rights framework that is asserted by all people who are ‘different’. Whether it is a question of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc, the right to be different and to be accepted as different (no matter how far you fall from the tree) is a dominant movement within our society and people with all types of disability are members of the movement, the right to be different.

When ‘disability’ becomes the dominant identity, as opposed to a person with Down Syndrome or a person with autism, what happens is that they become invisible. Disability is represented by the articulate person in a wheelchair, the media get comment from the blind person who wears a suit. The come to represent all people with disability and other groups become invisible. This is not to say that people in wheelchairs or suits do not have a role or right to speak but that right only extends to their experience as a person who uses a wheelchair or who is blind. A person with Down Syndrome, for example, has a right to speak on their own behalf about their life experiences.

The language of rights is different to the language of the medical or the social. Discrimination is experienced in the real lives of people. The experience of discrimination is personal and can only really be shared by people who have the same expectations, perceptions placed on them by others. Discrimination can not be defined or explained by medical terminology or broad social references only by the language of lived experience. As a community it is our responsibility to listen.

The use of old medical and social language will not be easily replaced. Just as there was not an acceptance of the change from medical identities to social identity the assertion of a right to define my own identity will be resisted by those who are unable to accept that people with disability have a unique voice or who will be unable to reliquish the power that comes with controlling the identities of others.

Just as homosexuality is no longer defined as a mental illness people with disability must not be defined as ‘diagnostic’ groups; just as all people with a different sexual orientation are not longer defined as being part of a generic homosexual/gay group but as as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transexual, people with disability must be defined by their lived experience as a person who is blind, as a person who uses a wheelchair, as a person living with intellectual disability. (1)

It may be convenient for the media and governments to see people with many disabilities as a homogenous group (or to narrow them down into acceptable social groups) but this is not their decision to make and we must give all peoples the right to define ourselves and who we identify with. How we measure the distance we ‘fall from the tree’ and who we ‘fall with’ is up to us to identify with.

Footnote:

(1)  the analogy of race could also be used, from immigrant, to ethnic, to Greek-Australian; as the lived experience of different groups is not identical. There will be some similarities but there will also be differences and within a rights framework these must be acknowledged.

Mark Pattison

Executive Director

Inclusion International

Editorial from Interaction Volume 24 Issue 4 – subscribe