The first healthcare-focused hearing was at Sydney Olympic Park in Homebush, NSW, from 17-28 February 2020.

It was about how the health system treats people with cognitive disability, including people with intellectual disability, autism and acquired brain injury.

Some of the issues the hearing heard about are:

  • barriers to health care and services for people with cognitive disability. This includes communication barriers and the way health professionals think about people with disability
  • training and education of health professionals about patients with cognitive disability
  • people with cognitive disability not getting their health problems diagnosed properly and on time
  • people with cognitive disability not living as long as other people
  • specific issues for First Nations people with cognitive disability when it comes to health care and services.

The Royal Commission released an issues paper: Health care for people with cognitive disabilityClick through to find out how you can have your say about it.

CID have written an Easy Read page about this hearing.

We have now updated our Jargon Buster and added a page for healthcare terms.

Where we stand on healthcare for people with disability

People with disability are 10 times more likely than people without disability to have poor health.

In our survey for the Civil Society Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, over 50% of people with disability said that:

  • They do not have access to health care and treatments they need
  • They think health care providers do not understand their needs

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 20% of people with disability do not see a doctor due to the cost. 66% do not see a dentist because of the cost. More than 700,000 Australians have a severe mental illness in any one year, but only 64,000 people with psychosocial disability will be eligible for the NDIS. Mental health services do not have enough resources to meet our needs.

Some groups of people with disability face even more barriers to healthcare. Women with disability have trouble getting health information and services – especially in sexual and reproductive health and cancer screening services. The illness and death rates for Indigenous people with disability are much worse than for others. The Council for Intellectual Disability have found that 42% of medical conditions in people with intellectual disability are not diagnosed.

People with disability experience human rights violations that cause bad health, like:

  • Forced medical treatments
  • Lack of freedom
  • Restrictive practices
  • Denial of legal capacity
  • Other forms of violence

There is no national tool to collect data on the health of people with disability. General health-related data does not identify if a person has disability. There is not enough data on the use of mainstream health services by people with disability.

What we need to do

  • Implement measures to address the poor health outcomes of people with disability, with a particular focus on Indigenous people with disability, people with intellectual disability, people with psychosocial disability and women with disability.
  • Create a national network of intellectual disability health specialists to help mainstream services meet the specific needs of people with intellectual disability.
  • Increase resourcing for peer managed mental health services and programs that give people other options aside from forced confinement and treatment, and that support people with psychosocial disability regardless of NDIS eligibility.
  • Develop a national tool to collect data on the health of people with disability, so we can see what works and what doesn’t.

More information