Australians with disability need action to remove barriers to secure, safe and accessible housing

Joint statement from DANA, PWDA and Inclusion Australia

Next week, the Disability Royal Commission will focus on people with disability who have experienced homelessness, including living in boarding houses and other forms of insecure or inadequate housing.

Public hearing 26 will take place in Parramatta, NSW from 29 August to 2 September, 2022.

We welcome this public hearing as an opportunity to hear about the impact of inappropriate housing directly from people with disability, and to discuss the range of steps urgently needed.

Ahead of the hearing, we have joined with People with Disability Australia (PWDA), Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA) to release a joint statement outlining concerns and recommendations around housing for people with disability.

We and our members regularly hear from and provide support to people with disability who find themselves in inappropriate housing. Many have also experienced more direct forms of homelessness such as couch surfing and even street sleeping.

For far too many people with disability, the limited choices around housing further encourage exclusion and reinforce group living models where people with disability have reduced choice about who they live with and where they live. The Royal Commission has already heard multiple stories of abuse, violence, neglect, and exploitation in such settings.

Our joint statement highlights some of the significant and wide-ranging consequences for people with disability of not having a safe, secure and appropriate place to live – many of which will be illustrated by the people with disability giving evidence at next week’s hearing.

In considering people’s evidence, we ask the Royal Commission to acknowledge that:

  • Safe and secure housing is critical to exercising our human rights and accessing supports and services
  • People with disability have a right to choose where, and with whom, we live
  • Structural barriers to safe, secure and accessible housing must be addressed to create genuine inclusion for people with disability.

Our statement makes practical and achievable recommendations for urgent policy changes. These range from reinforcing the mechanisms of choice and control to increasing access to accessible social housing.

“As the national representative body for people with an intellectual disability we are concerned about the slow drift back to institutional housing models. Although many older centres have closed, in some cases they are being replaced with new buildings and apartments on the same sites, with the same staff, still segregated from the community. The DRC must examine the institutionalisation people with intellectual disability are still experiencing across all housing models, especially housing that is provided by organisations with a history of large-scale institutionalised practices.” Catherine McAlpine, CEO Inclusion Australia

The Disability Royal Commission’s final report is due in September 2023. In issuing this joint statement we call on the Royal Commission to make recommendations that make a meaningful difference for people with disability and break the policy inertia that has allowed these unacceptable conditions to continue for too long.

The joint statement can be read in full here: DRC Public Hearing 26 Joint Statement – August 2022

A media release about the joint statement is also available: MEDIA RELEASE Housing action long overdue for people with disability

Information Gathering for Access and Planning workshops

Following the clear message from the disability community rejecting Independent Assessments, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has been exploring alternative approaches to ensure people and families have more control over NDIS application and planning processes.

One element of this is IGAP – or Information Gathering for Access and Planning. This is about the how people and families provide information to the NDIA when applying to the NDIS or for planning processes.

Inclusion Australia has been engaged to run workshops in August with people with an intellectual disability and families to better understand people’s experiences of these processes.A group of people sit around a table having a meeting

There is a choice of three online workshops for up to 6 people with disabilities.

  • Tuesday 16 August (2 – 4pm AEST)
  • Thursday 18 August (11am – 1pm AEST)
  • Monday 22 August (2 – 4pm AEST)

There will also be a separate evening workshop for up to 8 family members:

  • Wednesday 24 August (7pm to 9pm AEST).  

All attendees will be paid $50 per hour for taking part in the workshops.

A woman reading an open white book with black text. The text says "Easy Read".

To find out more or to register for a workshop please contact Jamie Bannister via [email protected].

Easy Read information about IGAP and the workshops is available here: NDIA Workshops – Easy Read

For anyone unable to attend, the NDIA also has an online survey seeking feedback on this process: IGAP_Project_CS (ndia.gov.au)

Your Service, Your Rights workshops

New workshops to help understand your rights when you receive services through the NDIS.

The Your Service, Your Rights logo, which is the project name in a speech bubble

Everyone has rights. Do you know what your rights are when you receive services through the NDIS?

Inclusion Australia is working with the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission to deliver free workshops for people with an intellectual disability and their supporters.

The workshops are about:

  • Rights and Services: What are rights and why are they important for everyone? How do you know if you’re getting your rights met by your service?
  • NDIS Commission – Code of Conduct and Complaints: What is the NDIS Commission? What do workers need to do to make sure you get your rights, and how can you make a complaint to the NDIS Commission?
  • Speaking Up and Supports: Why it is important to speak up; how to get support; using an advocate.
  • Being Involved: what are the things your service can do to include you in making sure your service is safe and good quality?

Workshops are happening around the country from now until June 2023. Some workshops are in person. Some workshops will be online.

Contact the Inclusion Australia member in your state or territory to find out about workshops happening near you.

 

For more information, visit our Your Service, Your Rights project page.

Living with COVID-19 and staying safe

An accessible new video to help you make the right decisions for you.

COVID-19 is still very common in the community.Covid Vaccine Booster

There is also risk for many people from catching the flu.

We want to make sure people with an intellectual disability have the right information to help stay as safe as possible.

That’s why we have made a new film with our friends and colleagues at Speak Out Advocacy in Tasmania.

The film is called Living with COVID-19.

It has information about staying safe and doing what is right for you.

You can watch it here:

This is the follow-up to our 2021 film to help people make decisions about getting the vaccine. You can watch the first film here.

More Information

For the latest COVID-19 information by the Australian Government in Easy Read visit COVID-19 vaccination – Easy Read resources

You can also visit our COVID-19 page with links to state and territory information: COVID-19 – Inclusion Australia

 

This video was made possible through philanthropic funding. We are grateful to our funders for their generous donation. 

Go Team SACID: working together to include everyone

Towards Inclusive Practice is a national project led by Inclusion Australia with our members around the country. The project is about telling government how to be more inclusive of people with an intellectual disability.

As part of Towards Inclusive Practice we have set up a national network of people with an intellectual disability to discuss important issues and make resources for Government on inclusive practices.

The team from SACID – the South Australian Council on Intellectual Disability –   reached out to us to share their story. Find out more about Team SACID below!

Members of the SACID Towards Inclusive Practice team

Hello!

We are ‘Go Team SACID’ from South Australia. We are Gavin, Thomas, Libby and Jo. Our facilitator is Mel.

Why the Towards Inclusive Practice project is important to us

We all have a passion for helping others. We want to share our stories to help inspire others to learn and to thrive as a person.

Towards Inclusive Practice is important so that the government can hear what people with intellectual disability have to say.

We hope that what we say will help make a difference in how the government supports and understands us, and other people with intellectual disability.

An example of a great, inclusive experience.

For Gavin and Libby, being a part of a peer group has been a great inclusive experience. “The peer group allows us both to have a voice and be part of a group that makes a difference. We can make new friends and connect with people who have same experiences and share things in common. We are not alone, there are other people like us. We can support each other.”

Thomas and Jo are part of a social group where they help young people with disability connect with others and be involved in social and community events and activities. The group helps people improve their social skills and meet new friends.

We all think being a part of this project is a great inclusive experience. We are working together, learning new skills and talking about topics that are useful in life. We work in a team and support each other. We get the job done. We listen to each other, we care for each other, and we make sure everyone is included.

What I am learning from this project?

We are halfway through the project, and we have learned:

  • We have the right to stick up for things and talk about issues.
  • We have the power to speak up for ourselves.
  • We have learned more about ourselves through the topics – power, trust and inclusive meetings.
  • We have reflected on experiences in the past. It has helped us recognise when we have been in powerful situations, how we can be more powerful; and how and when to trust others.
  • We have learned to look at different ways to support each individual person and … new ways of doing things.
  • We have learned some new work skills.

From this project, I have learned that sharing my story, I am a powerful woman.  – Libby

What do you really enjoy about being part of this project?

The things we really enjoy about this project are:

  • We have a voice to make a difference and we feel like we are being heard.
  • It is rewarding. We are learning new skills through this job.
  • We have met new people who we may not have met otherwise. We are learning about each other and building friendships.
  • We come up with good discussions and information.
  • We are part of the bigger team – working with others in different states.
  • We really look forward to the opportunity to attend the national workshop and meeting the other state representatives.
  • Something is coming out from the project.
  • We are part of a team.

To find out more about the Towards Inclusive Practice project, visit our project page: https://www.inclusionaustralia.org.au/project/towards-inclusive-practice/

For more about SACID and their work, visit: https://sacid.org.au/

Including everyone from the start – time to end a life of segregation for people with an intellectual disability

The experiences of young people with disability in different education settings will be the focus of the Disability Royal Commission this week.

We welcome this public hearing as an opportunity to talk how we can make education inclusive for everyone, and not set young people on a lifelong pathway to segregation.

No way back for students with an intellectual disability

Many students with an intellectual disability don’t go to a mainstream school. Instead, they are told they have to go to a segregated school. This is sometimes called a ‘special’ or ‘specialist’ school.

When students with an intellectual disability go to a segregated school, they rarely go back to a regular school. This means they don’t mix with or get the same education as students without disability. As a result, they are more likely to end up living in a group home and going to day services, or working in a sheltered workshop for pay rates below the minimum wage. It also means that people with an intellectual disability are more likely to live in poverty.

We don’t think this is fair. Everyone has a right to a good life.

The right help for the big decisions

Some of the big decisions about segregated education happen at particular times in young people’s lives. This includes starting primary or secondary school, or near the end of secondary school (Year 10 and 12). There can be a lot of pressure on families to move from regular to segregated school at these times.

We think there should be a plan to provide better support to young people and families at these times and help them stay in the regular school system.

We are also calling for

  • all segregated schools to stop letting students with an intellectual disability into Prep and Grade 1 by 2024
  • more resources for mainstream schools about how students with an intellectual disability learn, how to support them properly, and how to include them in all parts of school life
  • Better coordination between the NDIS and state and territory education systems.

A shared commitment to inclusive education

Inclusion Australia CEO Catherine McAlpine will appear as a witness at the hearing with Mary Sayers, the CEO of Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) on Wednesday. CYDA has been a long-time advocate and leader in calls for a national approach to inclusive education and convenes the Australian Coalition for Inclusive Education.

As CEO of the peak representative body for people with an intellectual disability and their families, Catherine will address the ‘polished pathway’ to segregation that starts in schools for young people with an intellectual disability.

“We’ve known about the benefits of inclusive education for decades, but little has been done to genuinely include students with an intellectual disability. It’s time for talking to stop and real changes to happen. We call on governments to work closely with young people, families and schools to support every student to be included from the start and smash the polished pathway to segregation.”

Media Statement

PDF version of Inclusion Australia DRC Inclusive Education Media Statement – 6 June 2022

Related papers 

The following papers articulate our position on an approach to inclusive education. Includes Plain English and Easy Ready versions.

Inclusive education for students with an intellectual disability – Position Paper – June 2022

Inclusive Education for students with an intellectual disability – Plain English Statement

Inclusive Education statement – Easy Read

Read the experiences of people with intellectual disability and their families: https://www.inclusionaustralia.org.au/story/education-and-learning/ 

Inclusion Australia Annual Report 2020-21

COVID-19 meant that 2020-21 was a difficult year for many, with the pandemic affecting people with a disability and their families amongst the hardest of all.

However, Inclusion Australia and its members were still very active throughout the year, working together to make sure that people with an intellectual disability and their families were heard and represented where it matters.

You can read all about our big year, including our work with the Disability Royal Commission and the campaign to stop Independent Assessments, in our 2020-21 Annual Report.

Inclusion Australia Annual Report 2020-2021

Inclusion Australia annual report from cover, showing a aman and a woman looking at a brochure

 

Equal Pay, Equal Respect: we call on the next Australian Government to create real employment opportunities for people with an intellectual disability

With disability issues a key focus of the 2022 Federal Election campaign, Inclusion Australia is calling on the next Australian Government to make employment of people with an intellectual disability a priority.   

Inclusion Australia’s Our Voice committee – all people with an intellectual disability from across the country – have picked employment as the key policy area they want to campaign on for this Federal election. Our Voice believe that more people with an intellectual disability should have the opportunity to work in regular jobs, and earn money they can use in their lives. 

“People with disabilities have the right to work in the open job market like anyone else and get the training and support they need; this means no more sheltered employment.” – Our Voice, May 2022

People with an intellectual disability are excluded from open and self-employment, and their families face a significant workload to support them. 

The current employment policies are not working for people with an intellectual disability and their families, and big changes are needed. 

  • Just 14–18% of people with intellectual disability aged between 15–64 are in full or part-time employment
  • 60% of people in that group were not in the labour market at all
  • Just 29% of people with an intellectual disability who get NDIS supports are in paid employment (over 25 years old)
  • 77% of those are employed in a sheltered workshop or Australian Disability Enterprise (ADE) 

The Disability Royal Commission also recently heard that people with an intellectual disability are being paid just $2.50 an hour for their work. We do not think this is fair or respectful. People with an intellectual disability should be paid a fair wage for their work.

We talked with and listened to people with an intellectual disability, their families, our members, disability advocates, academics, and disability employment service providers to develop a range of policies that will:

  • reduce segregated employment
  • create more open and self-employment opportunities
  • make it easier to get and maintain open and self-employment for people with an intellectual disability and their families.  
  • help remove the barriers that people with an intellectual disability and their families experience when looking for work. 

We believe our plan will create real change in the lives of people with an intellectual disability and their families, as well as making a significant economic return by investing in inclusion. 

Read our plan in full here: Equal Pay Equal Respect – Inclusion Australia’s Federal Election platform 2022

Read our plan in Easy Read here: Equal Pay Equal Respect – Inclusion Australia’s Election Platform 2022 – Easy Read

#EqualPayEqualRespect

Disability a key issue in upcoming Federal Election

Commitments on disability issues from both major parties demonstrates that the rights of people with disability are a growing concern for Australian voters. This is a powerful testament to the work and strong voices of people with disability, their families and disability advocates who campaigned for the NDIS and continue to fight for more inclusive Australia.

As the national peak body for people with an intellectual disability and their families we strongly welcome today’s commitment by Greg Hunt, the Minister for Health, of $8 million in funding for the establishment of a National Centre of Excellence in Intellectual Disability Health. This significant and critical announcement is an important step in addressing health inequality for people with an intellectual disability. It follows sustained campaigning by the disability community, and in particular work by the Council for Intellectual Disability (CID). The Centre is a critical component of the National Roadmap for Improving the Health of People with Intellectual Disability. The announcement also includes a further $20 million commitment by the Australian Government for much needed intellectual disability health research.

Jim Simpson, CID Senior Advocate said “the funding announced by the Minister will allow the establishment of a Centre with solid foundations and for important research into practical strategies for improving health care for a very disadvantaged population. While the initial funding of the Centre is only for 2 years, we will be working with government to make it ongoing.”

The announcement followed the launch yesterday in Melbourne of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) election platform for people with disabilities by Shadow Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Bill Shorten. This includes a series of measures around the operation of the NDIS, as well as support for the National Disability Strategy and a National Autism Strategy.

Inclusion Australia welcomes the ALPs focus on the NDIS. We agree on the need for more consistency in planning. People with an intellectual disability and their families want the NDIS to be secure, steady and responsive.

We are pleased to see a pledge to strengthen co-design in the NDIS. All scheme changes need to be co-designed with people with disability – including increasing opportunities for leadership and involvement of people with an intellectual disability.

We also cautiously welcome the ALPs proposal for increasing funding for disability advocacy. Our community has long argued for individual and systemic advocacy funding to help people navigate complicated processes, and to make systems easier to use and work more efficiently. We look forward to more detail on the nature of the proposed increase.

Inclusion Australia also supports the ALP election focus on employment with ‘an evidence-based Centre of Excellence to get more people with disability into long-term jobs’. However, such a Centre must also ensure that people are paid proper award wages for their work, including people with an intellectual disability. Further, work must be done in parallel to break up the ‘polished pathway’ from schools into segregated workplaces.

Catherine McAlpine, CEO, Inclusion Australia said: ‘Whoever forms government after the election, we want to make sure people with an intellectual disability are more included in the community. In particular, changes to the NDIS must stop the polished pathway to segregation that many people experience.

Changes to NDIS Supported Independent Living must not leave people with disability worse off

Inclusion Australia is concerned about announcements this week about changes to home and living supports, and in particular changes to Supported Independent Living (or SIL) for people with disability who use the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

As the national peak body for people with an intellectual disability and their families, we welcome discussion and actions to improve NDIS systems and processes and make it easier for people with disabilities to access the supports they need to live their lives.

However, any changes must reflect the very real challenges experienced by people with disability and be developed in partnership with the disability community to avoid leaving people without essential supports.

SIL is a primary support for people with an intellectual disability. This includes many people who have been institutionalised all their life and those who have complex support needs. These are the very people the NDIS was designed to support.

We and other disability representative organisations are regularly hearing anecdotal reports around cuts to SIL in people’s NDIS packages. We are naturally cautious that the changes to SIL are being rushed through in a climate of ongoing concerns expressed by the Government and the National Disability Insurance Agency about scheme sustainability and reducing costs.

This should not be the driver for change, nor should announcements that fit in with the election cycle. 

We are also concerned about the move to ‘step down’ or reduce the supports for people with disability where they live.

Inclusion Australia CEO Catherine McAlpine said “Whilst we believe there is a sincerity to make the scheme work better, we fear that these changes are being rushed through. We do not wish to see changes that will mean people are left with insufficient supports. This will lead services to cut corners and will result in a decrease in the freedoms and rights of people with disability.”

“We also want to see more consideration of other safeguards people need, including funded independent support for decision-making that ensure people are not being forced into making ‘choices’ against their best interests.”

It is also critical that other parts of the system work to support the aims of the NDIS. People with disability are part of the broader Australian community.  Inclusion Australia calls for all states and territories to increase the range of accessible, social and public housing options. Without this, people ‘stepping down’ from SIL to an Independent Living Options (ILO) package will end up languishing in dangerous and insecure accommodation such as boarding houses.

Scheme sustainability is vital to the success of the NDIS. However, changes must be co-designed and implemented in partnership with scheme participants and disabled peoples organisations. To do otherwise only creates new problems and puts the lives of people with disability at risk.

Ends