psychiatic institution

IA response to denial of DSP to people in psychiatric ‘confinement’

Inclusion Australia’s Submission to Senate Economics Committee – September 2016


This submission makes three claims:

  1. That the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the Disability Discrimination Act both require the Commonwealth Government to treat people with intellectual disability equally. So, if a person charged with a serious offence is found to be not guilty or unfit to stand trial then the Commonwealth Government is required to treat them the same as other people who have been charged and been found to be not guilty.
  2. That this Bill does not meet the Government’s expectations of ‘value for money’, evidence based policy and congruency across all program areas.
  3. That the intention of the Bill is not to address the real needs of people with intellectual disability but is another instance of people with intellectual disability being caught in the middle of a ‘futile’ argument between the Commonwealth and States.

Rehabilitation builds opportunity, punishment diminishes opportunity

The Explanatory Memorandum states:

While the person is undergoing psychiatric confinement, the relevant state or territory government is responsible for taking care of their needs, including funding their treatment and rehabilitation.

The purpose of all government legislation must be to ensure that people with intellectual disability have the best chance and opportunity to be full contributing members of society. Where people are well supported with evidence based practices they are able to contribute to the financial, social and cultural life of the community in which they live. The key is investment, intervening early to ensure that people have the opportunity to build on their skills and to gain a sense of value.

People with intellectual disability have a cognitive impairment and require concrete, practical experience to be able to learn and use the skills that they acquire. Denying people with intellectual disability income support (including the Disability Support Pension {DSP}) will have at least two effects;

  1. it will cast people with disability into poverty. Without resources they will become a ‘burden’ to either the state government through being incarcerated for longer than necessary, or where they are eligible for the NDIS greatly increase the costs to the Commonwealth government through support to relearn skills and the need for housing.
  2. It will inhibit learning and result in the loss of skills.

It has to be acknowledged that most people with intellectual disability who are charged with a serious offence will be people ‘living on the margins of society’. As such they will have limited financial resources and support networks to assist them when they are released from the institution.

We know that without resources people with disability are often ‘stuck’ in institutions because they have no accommodation to move onto. This means greater expenditure for state governments and loss of skills and hope for people with intellectual disability as they remain incarcerated indefinitely.

Put simply, having money going into a bank account on a regular basis enables the staff supporting people with intellectual disability, in a very real way, to budget and to plan for life out of the institution; e.g., if I build up funds for a rental bond then I can talk, in a real way, about where is the best place for me to live and who with; regular money in the bank enables me, in a real way, to talk about budgeting for rent, food, etc. This does not only build skills but also expectation and hope. If my bank account is zero then all talk of housing, rent, budgeting, etc, is done in a vacuum and rightly will get the response, ‘why bother, it is never going to happen’. Funds in the bank also gives the support staff the knowledge that their work will have a positive outcome, it will create a degree of certainty and thus higher expectations.

Of particular concern is the ‘cost burden’ on the NDIS if people with intellectual disability are not supported with evidence based practices while they are institutionalised. It is our contention that all people with intellectual disability are eligible for the NDIS though the level of funded support that they will need will vary greatly depending on the support that they have had to acquire and maintain skills. The continuing investment in maintaining skills and building on these is vital for people to become increasingly independent of both support and welfare. As we have stated, people with intellectual disability learn in the real world, practical hands on day to day actual experience.

This Bill will have a detrimental effect on both the maintenance of everyday skills and the learning of new skills. The effect will be that the NDIS will have a greater cost in re-skilling people, building up their expectations and proving additional support due the lack of financial literacy during their incarceration. The cost will be greater than the pension paid during the person’s incarceration!

A fact that has a direct bearing on pension costs is that a person with both skills and high expectations has a better chance of getting paid employment in the open labour market. We know from evidence based practice that a person with intellectual disability, with the right support, has a decreased reliance on the DSP when they enter the open labour market. This fact is recognised by the Commonwealth government through a number of employment measures that promote entry into the open labour market for people with intellectual disability. This Bill is at odds with other Government policy and clearly does not equal ‘value for money’.

Governments talk about the positive effects of people being engaged in their community. The economic and social benefits of employment and the social and psychological benefits of voluntary work and being involved in cultural activities. This rhetoric must be consistent across all programs and where issues of Commonwealth/state responsibilities cross over these must be resolved without penalising people with intellectual disability.

It would appear that the Government, in trying to address a ‘wrong’ that it see the Federal Court having inflicted on it, is not considering the consequences for people with intellectual disability nor for Commonwealth finances.

Download the full Submission

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