Campaign to highlight the rights of persons with disabilities in Australia kicks off with focus on independent living.
In the lead up to International Day of Disabled Persons on 3rd December, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) is shining a spotlight on disability rights with the launch of four policy papers over four weeks. The papers address Australia’s international legal obligations to protect the rights of persons with disabilities to independent living, inclusive education, adequate, accessible mental health services and to live a life free from alarming levels of gender-based violence.
The first of the papers to be published discusses the right of persons with disabilities to live in the community, to choose their place of residence, where and with whom they live, and to choose their living arrangements.
Susan Peukert, Chair of ALHR’s Disability Rights Committee said, “ALHR is deeply concerned about the pervasive denial of the right of persons with disabilities to live independently in places of their choice.”
In Australia a staggering 6,000 young persons with disabilities live permanently in aged care facilities. Miss Peukert said, “Young persons with disabilities who live long-term in aged care facilities experience extreme social isolation, along with declining emotional, physical and mental health. While aged care facilities provide basic shelter and care to young persons with disabilities, they cannot provide social interaction with other young persons or the specialised disability support that a young person with disabilities may need.”
Mostly, young persons with disabilities are placed in aged care facilities because their families can no longer care for them at home. Given the Federal Government funds aged care facilities, once in aged care, State and Territory governments have little incentive to provide pathways out of aged care and to fund the complex, ongoing support needs of young persons with disabilities.
Miss Peukert said, “ALHR calls for immediate action to relocate young persons with disabilities out of aged care facilities and into specialist disability accommodation where they can live in the community and be provided with disability supports and societal interaction.”
ALHR has also expressed its alarm at National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) policy related to accommodating persons with disabilities. It is NDIA policy that only a small number of NDIS participants will be funded to live alone in specialist disability accommodation. This is the case even when dwellings are in a configuration that would make shared supports possible.
Miss Peukert said, “NDIA policy evidences a clear bias towards shared accommodation settings to reduce costs and will require persons with disabilities to live in group-home style accommodation settings even if that is not their preference. It is clear that greater funding of the NDIS is required to facilitate the development of a sufficient amount of specialist disability accommodation to meet the complex support needs of persons with disabilities and to provide them with choice and control over where, how and with whom they live. Anything else simply replicates institutional living on a small-scale for persons with disabilities and is not in keeping with Australia’s international legal obligations.”
The next position paper in ALHR’s disability rights series will relate to the rights of children with disabilities to inclusive education.
Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.