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Comments on the NDIS Review and Participant Service Guarantee

PWDA welcomes this morning’s announcement of the review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) legislation and rules which will lead to the development of the NDIS Participant Service Guarantee.

We welcome the focus on improving plans and waiting times for people with disability. Our members, people with disability, have told us over and over that they are waiting too long for access to supports and essential equipment, and to get their plans finalised.

People with disability are also finding their plans don’t reflect the support they need, that the plans can be inadequate and can show a lack of understanding about disability. When our circumstances change, reviews and new plans are far too slow to be developed and implemented with potentially dangerous consequences.

However, we are concerned about any moves towards standardisation of plans, or to implementing generic plans, that will undermine the whole aim of the NDIS, which was to provide individualised supports that meet the specific needs of people with disability. We need to see the quality of plans lifted, in addition to shorter timeframes for access and plan development being met.

The old disability support system was rightly criticised for being too inflexible and having rigid support criteria – the NDIS can’t replicate the old outdated system.

Any review of the NDIS rules must centre people with disability, and what we want and need. People with disability need the NDIS to be easier to access, easier to deal with and more focused on us.

To achieve these goals, it is essential that the Government removes the staffing cap and improves the training of NDIA planners, so that we get better access to the scheme and better quality.

Better quality plans would mean less of us are forced into lengthy review processes and help us realise our goals for better access to employment and improved housing.

We also want to see planners trained to focus more on functional assessments rather than medical diagnosis. This review also needs to ensure all people with disability across Australia who should be eligible can access the scheme. This includes people from marginalised groups and communities.

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MEDIA RELEASE: New CEO for national disabled people’s organisation

a head shot of Jeff Smith

People with Disability Australia (PWDA) today welcomes our new Chief Executive Officer, Jeff Smith, who from 12 August takes on the job in a time of change and growth for the organisation, and people with disability.

“I’m so pleased to be taking up this exciting and important role as CEO of PWDA, an organisation that has been leading the work on rights for people with disability for 40 years,” said Jeff Smith, incoming CEO, PWDA.

“As a person with disability myself, I know how far we have come towards being fully included in Australia, but also how far we still have to go before we are truly equal.”

“Jeff brings to PWDA a wealth of relevant and timely experience, including from his 14 years as Director of the Environmental Defenders Office of NSW. He is a solicitor with a Masters of Law from Sydney University (majoring in Environmental Law and Policy) and regularly teaches postgraduate and undergraduate courses at Macquarie and Sydney University,” said Dr David Abello, President, PWDA.

“I’m really looking forward to working with Jeff, given his experience in governance, resilience, strategic planning, capacity building and sustainability. I’m excited about exploring a range of emerging human rights issues for people with disability with Jeff including how people with disability can be at the forefront of measures to deal with climate change.”

Jeff Smith is currently on the Advisory Committee for the Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law (having been Chair for 8 years), and the Board of the Haymarket Foundation. He was also a long-time Board member of the Total Environment Centre, the Environmental Planning and Law Association, and CLC NSW as well the Strategic Council for the Climate Institute.

“Our current Co-CEOs, Matthew Bowden and Therese Sands, will stay on at PWDA for a period of time to ensure a smooth transition,” said Dr Abello.

“I’m looking forward to working with the PWDA Board, our members, staff and supporters in advancing the rights of people with disability. We have lots of work to do, and I can’t wait to get started,” said Mr Smith.


More information:
El Gibbs
Director, Media and Communications, People with Disability Australia
0408 682 867
media@pwd.org.au

About People with Disability Australia: 
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) is a national Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) that undertakes representation and advocacy to achieve the human rights of people with disability.  Our primary membership is made up of people with disability and organisations mainly constituted by people with disability.  We have a cross-disability focus – we represent the interests of people with all kinds of disability.  PWDA is a non-profit, non-government organisation.

Our vision is of a socially just, accessible and inclusive community, in which the human rights, belonging, contribution, potential and diversity of all people with disability are recognised, respected and celebrated with pride.  This vision underpins everything that we do.

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People with disability call for an end to violence and neglect

17 July 2019

Violence and neglect against people with disability is a national crisis and must be addressed urgently by all levels of government and disability services.

“Tonight, Eden Camac and his family bravely shared his story of the terrible injury and neglect that was done to him, and the immense harm this has caused,” said Matthew Bowden, Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia.

“Every part of the disability, health and justice systems failed Eden, and added significantly to the trauma he experiences. Eden is still waiting for answers and for people to be held accountable for what happened to him.”

Eden Camac was severely injured in his group home, then left without medical attention for 10 hours. When he was in hospital, he was not offered the same treatment as non-disabled people, the police refused to press charges and nine months later, Eden and his family are still looking for answers.

“Eden is strong and resilient, and has worked hard to recover from his extensive injuries. But we are angry and devastated by what happened to Eden, and how hard it has been to get justice,” said Sharon Camac, Eden’s mother.

“I want to make sure this never happens again, to Eden, or to any other person with disability. We need to see structural changes that will prevent future neglect like this.”

“Eden has a right to live his life free of violence and neglect, just like everyone else. We want his story to help people understand what happens to far too many people with disability every day,” said Michael Camac, Eden’s father.

“The upcoming Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability will examine these very systems and structures that lead to people with disability getting hurt, and no one being held accountable,” said Luke Gale, Manager, Individual Advocacy, People with Disability Australia.

“We have been waiting a long time for this national examination of what has to change in Australia for people with disability to be safe from violence.”

“People with disability have been excluded from our justice systems, and deemed to be ‘unreliable witnesses’. We call on the Queensland Government to develop a disability justice plan that will ensure that violence against us isn’t swept under the carpet,” said Mr Bowden.

“We need all levels of government, and the disability support sector, to wake up to the epidemic of violence and neglect against people with disability and start to change.”

“Eden’s story is one we hear every day from people with disability around Australia. This isn’t good enough, that people with disability routinely experience violence in our homes, and can’t get access to justice when we do,” said Mr Gale.


More information:
Dr Megan Clement-Couzner
Senior Policy Officer, violence prevention & access to justice
People with Disability Australia
0431 961689
media@pwd.org.au

About People with Disability Australia: 
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) is a national Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) that undertakes representation and advocacy to achieve the human rights of people with disability.  Our primary membership is made up of people with disability and organisations mainly constituted by people with disability.  We have a cross-disability focus – we represent the interests of people with all kinds of disability.  PWDA is a non-profit, non-government organisation.

Our vision is of a socially just, accessible and inclusive community, in which the human rights, belonging, contribution, potential and diversity of all people with disability are recognised, respected and celebrated with pride.  This vision underpins everything that we do.

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People with disability have the right to sex

Logos of Touching Base and People with Disability Australia, with Media Release written underneath

This week’s decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) about National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding for sex therapy, has been welcomed as a first step towards people with disability having access to support to have sex, say leading disability and sex worker advocacy groups.

“We congratulate the applicant, a brave woman with disability who is determined to have the same rights as non-disabled people to an adult sex life,” said Matthew Bowden, Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia.

“Deputy President Rayment OAM QC of the AAT was considering a specific set of circumstances for this woman with disability but we hope that it now provides the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) with a framework to develop much needed policy in this area. The previous state-based disability support system had long supported people with disability to have funded access to sex work services – now it is time for the NDIS to catch up with this long-standing precedent,” said Matthew Bowden.

“We are pleased that the AAT has upheld the rights of people with disability to sexual expression, which would enable ‘reasonable and necessary’ support through NDIS funding to engage the services of a sex worker to achieve therapeutic outcomes. People with disability should not be denied access to sex on the basis of their disability.”

“Sex therapists do not provide sex work services, but sex workers often provide therapeutic outcomes for their clients through the services they provide. These services are provided by sex workers, some of whom have been trained by Touching Base in honing and further developing their skills in working with people with disability.” said Saul Isbister, President of Touching Base.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which Australia ratified in 2008, says that governments have an obligation to ensure that people with disability can enjoy life to the same extent as their non-disabled peers.

The NDIS is underpinned by the CRPD and ensures that the rights of people with disability are paramount in all decisions.

‘We argue that every adult, with a disability or not, has a human right to seek consensual sexual expression. Non-disabled people can masturbate, or find sexual partners, but for some people with disability, they don’t have the same opportunities without access to sex work services. For too long the issue of disability and sexuality has been a taboo topic that was kept shrouded in a veil of secrecy or denial. During our work, over the last 19 years, Touching Base has seen a remarkable transformation in the willingness of governments and the disability service sector to respond in ways that support people with disability to make their own choices.” said Saul Isbister.


More information:
El Gibbs
Director, Media and Communications, People with Disability Australia
0408 682 867
media@pwd.org.au

About Touching Base
Touching Base is a sex worker advocacy organisation focusing on the rights of people with disability and sex workers. It formed in October 2000 and has been advocating for the rights of sex workers and people with disability ever since. Touching Base aims to facilitate the link between these two marginalised societal groups, removing the stigma that impedes their self-expression and raise the public awareness of the issues that affect them.

The organisation encourages information sharing and the expansion of educational tools for sex workers, people with disability and the disability sector.

About People with Disability Australia:
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) is a national Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) that undertakes representation and advocacy to achieve the human rights of people with disability. Our primary membership is made up of people with disability and organisations mainly constituted by people with disability. We have a cross-disability focus – we represent the interests of people with all kinds of disability. PWDA is a non-profit, non-government organisation.

Our vision is of a socially just, accessible and inclusive community, in which the human rights, belonging, contribution, potential and diversity of all people with disability are recognised, respected and celebrated with pride. This vision underpins everything that we do.

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SB 300519: PWDA Submission to Inquiry into Ageing and Disability Commissioner Bill 2019

30 May 2019

The Hon. Shayne Mallard, MLC

Chair, Standing Committee on Social Issues

Parliament House
Macquarie Street
SYDNEY NSW 2000

Dear Mr Mallard and Members of the Standing Committee on Social Issues

Re: Ageing and Disability Commissioner Bill 2019

People with Disability Australia (PWDA) welcomes the opportunity to provide a submission to the NSW Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Social Issues Inquiry into The Ageing and Disability Commissioner Bill 2019. We write to the Committee to raise a number of areas where we believe the Bill could be strengthened, including

  • Scope and powers of the Commissioner
  • Community Visitors Scheme
  • Advocacy

PWDA also fully endorses the submission from the NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance, and all of its recommendations.

About PWDA

People with Disability Australia (PWDA) is the NSW cross-disability peak body for all people with disability. We are also recognised as a Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) because our membership including our governing board is made up entirely of people with disability.

PWDA has been funded by the NSW Government as a cross-disability peak organisation of and for people with disability living in NSW for over 25 years. As a cross-disability, representative organisation, our activities are conducted on behalf of our membership, and the broader disability community in NSW. Therefore, our activities represent, and benefit over 1.4 million people with disability living in NSW.

We are currently funded through the NSW Peak Disability Advocacy Program and we also deliver several NSW government-funded projects including:

  • Domestic Violence Innovation Fund Building Access for Women with Disability; and the
  • PWDA Boarding House Advocacy Project.

As a NSW peak disability representative organisation we continually engage with local, state and federal governments to realise a just and inclusive community for people with disability. Our work includes individual advocacy, systemic advocacy and representation, and we work with and provide advice to the NSW Government and agencies.

Introduction

PWDA supports the establishment of the Ageing and Disability Commissioner to address the over-representation of people with disability and older people who are exposed to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

We support the objectives of the Bill to protect and promote the rights of people with disability and older people from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. It is essential that NSW meet its obligations to realise all the human rights of people with disability as articulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). These rights are outlined in the National Disability Strategy (NDS) 2010-2020, and agreed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). The NDS commits all governments to achieve for people with disability:

  • inclusive and accessible communities
  • rights protection and justice
  • economic security
  • personal and community support
  • learning and skills, and
  • health and wellbeing.[1]

While the Commonwealth has taken responsibility for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which addresses NDS area 4, Personal and Community Support, the NSW Government still retains responsibility and leadership in many areas that impact the lives and rights of people with disability, such as ensuring all people with disability in NSW are able to access mainstream services they require, are able to participate fully in community life, and receive rights protection and justice. We hope that this submission provides advice and recommendations that will assist the Committee and NSW Government strengthen the Ageing and Disability Commissioner Bill in order to more fully uphold the rights of people with disability to rights protection and justice.

Key Issues

Increased scope and powers

The nature of crimes against people with disability, including older people with disability, are extremely grave, frequent and widespread. PWDA has extensively documented the nature of the violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation we suffer, as has much other research.[2] To recognise the seriousness of this epidemic of violence, PWDA calls for the wording of the Bill to cover violence as well as “abuse, neglect and exploitation.” This would bring the Bill into line with the current Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, and would more accurately capture the lived experiences of many people with disability. We also note that many crimes against us are not referred to the police, and in all cases where a crime has taken place the Commissioner or their delegate must be obliged to take this action.

We also recommend that the Ageing and Disability Commissioner have the power of public inquiry as well as investigation, up to the powers of a Royal Commission. This will allow the Commissioner the resources and standing to investigate systemic and structural issues that lead to violence and abuse, as well as individual and group matters. It will also allow the Commissioner to compel evidence where necessary, and make recommendations to which the Government must respond. Currently, the Bill does not mention the power of public inquiry, but only that of investigation. The Bill should also specify that the Commissioner has the power to act on outcomes of an investigation, and how they may do so. We recommend that they be able to compel certain actions from subjects for investigation, with penalties for failure to comply.

Change in terminology to person(s) with disability

We believe the Bill would be strengthened by the use of the term “person(s) with disability” instead of “adult(s) with disability” throughout the Bill.

Community Visitors

PWDA welcomes the inclusion of the Community Visitors Scheme and the continued support for the scheme from the NSW Government. We recommend that the Bill specify that the Commissioner is obliged to act on reports from the Official Community Visitors, if those reports indicate a finding, suspicion or risk of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation.

Community visitors and referral to advocacy services

We fully support the provisions in the Bill for the Official Community Visitors to make referrals to advocacy services as outlined in clause 21(h):

(h) provide information to persons using visitable services about advocacy services available to help them with grievances or concerns and, in appropriate cases, to assist a person to obtain those advocacy services

Advocacy services play a key role in enabling people with disability to make complaints and raise grievances or concerns that may relate to their safety and well-being.

This legislation provides a clear example of why the NSW Government must continue to fund independent information, advocacy and representation services by and for people with disability. Independent advocacy and representation represents a key element in the oversight and safeguarding system to enable people with disability to live safely and reduces the risk of exposure to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. Our services are also critical to the development of the NSW Disability Inclusion Plan, the Agency Disability Inclusion Action Plans, and the implementation of the actions within those plans.[3]

We continue to highlight the significance of advocacy, representation and information services to deliver on the rights of people with disability in NSW and that this legislation affirms the need for people with disability to be able to access these services. The NSW Government needs to provide certainty for people with disability by confirming funding into the future.

We also note that the establishment of the Commissioner does not preclude the establishment of the Public Advocate to lead and drive improvements in Guardianship arrangements including the implementation of supported decision-making in accordance with the CRPD, as recommended within the Review of the Guardianship Act.

Summary of Recommendations

PWDA recommends:

  1. That to recognise the seriousness of the epidemic of violence against people with disability, the wording of the Bill to cover violence as well as “abuse, neglect and exploitation.”
  2. That the Bill be amended to state that in all cases where a crime has taken place the Commissioner or their delegate are obliged to report this to the police.
  3. That the Ageing and Disability Commissioner have the power of public inquiry as well as investigation, up to the powers of a Royal Commission.
  4. That the Bill should specify that the Commissioner has the power to act on outcomes of an investigation, and how they may do so.
  5. That the Commissioner be able to compel certain actions from subjects of investigation, with penalties for failure to comply.
  6. That the Bill specify that the Commissioner is obliged to act on reports from the Official Community Visitors, if those reports indicate a finding, suspicion or risk of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation.
  7. That the Bill be strengthened by the use of the term “person(s) with disability” instead of “adult(s) with disability” throughout the Bill.

Yours sincerely,

Romola Hollywood

Director Policy and Advocacy

romolah@pwd.org.au

0431 998 273


[1] Council of Australian Governments, 2011, National Disability Strategy, available at: https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/05_2012/national_disability_strategy_2010_2020.pdf

[2] Frohmader, C., & Sands, T. (2015) Australian Cross Disability Alliance (ACDA) Submission to the Senate Inquiry into Violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings’. Australian Cross Disability Alliance (ACDA); Sydney, Australia.

[3] People with Disability Australia, 2018, Realising the State of Inclusion: The Role of the NSW Government for people with disability, Submission to the NSW Legislative Council Inquiry into the Implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the provision of disability services in New South Wales Submission to the NSW Legislative Council Inquiry into the Implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the provision of disability services in New South Wales, available: https://pwd.org.au/resources/library/submissions/submission-archive-2015/

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We welcome the new Ministers appointed yesterday by Prime Minister Morrison. The new Minister for Family and Social Services, Anne Rushton, and the new Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Stuart Robert, take up their portfolios at a time of change for people with disability in Australia.

We look forward to working with both Ministers to get to work on our Royal Commission, to address the appalling extent of violence against people with disability.

The National Disability Strategy is being renewed for the next decade, detailing how we will fulfil our obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, putting the rights of people with disability at the centre of everything the Australian Government does to deliver change across the community including with other levels of government.

We look forward to working with both Ministers to implement their commitments to people with disability, such as the improvements to the NDIS, strong employment targets for people with disability and more specialist disability housing. We also will be looking to these Ministers to lead a national effort to make sure that people with disability aren’t falling through the gaps being created by many state and territory governments, who are withdrawing from essential services. We believe implementing the Productivity Commission’s recommendations on the review of the National Disability Agreement is critical to this.

We want to see a person with disability taking on the role of CEO for the NDIS, and that appointment made as soon as possible. We agree with the Prime Minister that the NDIS has to work more efficiently, with no more delays and no more underspends, and appreciated the appointment of a dedicated Minister to that job. We want to see the staffing cap removed for the NDIS to have enough people to meet the needs of people with disability.

We are also pleased to see a Minister for Housing, Michael Sukkar, and that Minister Cash has retained employment as her portfolio, as well as an Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services, Luke Howarth. People with disability urgently need action on affordable, accessible housing, and we need a National Jobs Plan to address the barriers we face when looking for paid work.