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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.