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Xavier Smerdon
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Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.
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Thursday, 13th November 2014 at 10:35 am

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Fronting Up to Disability Issues in the Victorian Election

By Xavier Smerdon, Journalist

Calling all political parties, there’s an election coming up.  Where are the real policies for Victorians with disabilities asks systemic advocate for inclusive practices, Tricia Malowney.

If you are funded to provide services to Victorians, that means all Victorians, not just the easy ones.  It is time that whoever is elected to Government in a couple of weeks stands up for those of us who miss out, time and time again.

Victorians with disabilities are among the most socially and economically disadvantaged and we have been placed in the too hard basket.

With the State election just around the corner, for the past few weeks I have been anticipating the announcement of real policies which will improve the lives of Victorians with disabilities.

After all, we make up 20 per cent of the population and according to the last census, 13.5 per cent have a primary “carer” role (read family unpaid member). So that’s a fairly high voting group isn’t it? And I haven’t even mentioned the Service Sector who really work hard – for not much pay – to support us to achieve independence and access to the community.

This is going to be the chance for all the parties to compete for our votes. But all I’ve heard is tinkering at the edges – a respite building here, a “specialist” school there, more supported accommodation. I think they think that the NDIS is the be all and end all of disability service provision. And none of the parties seem to realise that not all of us need to live in a group home, or attend specialist schools, or work in supported employment.

What we need is access to jobs, access to health, access to justice, access to housing, access to equitable education, access to equitable public transport and an accessible parking system that meets our needs.  All the things that the rest of Victoria takes for granted.

The things that are funded in the Barwon NDIS trial site include basic home maintenance to ensure independent living, home modifications to allow people to live at home or to move out of home into the community, therapy, aids and equipment like wheelchairs and callipers, as well as support to actually live in the community, to go to a coffee shop or the pictures with friends.

The roll out of the NDIS will not take place in the rest of Victoria until Mid 2016.  

In the meantime, all the parties need to address a few issues if they want my vote:

1.    Employment of Victorians with disabilities in the public sector is and has been shamefully low under successive governments.  I work really hard at what I do.  The banks and insurance companies have much better outcomes in the employment of people with disabilities.  As far as government goes, they are happy for me to come in and have a meeting with them about various issues, but when it comes to paid work, someone else get the jobs. Seldom do I get paid for what I do, and sometimes it even costs me money to present papers at conferences as I have to pay my own registration fees.

What plans do you have to ensure that Victorians with disabilities are employed on an equal basis to other Victorians and paid at a commensurate rate?

How many Victorians with disabilities does your party employ?

How many Victorians with disabilities do you employ to provide you with advice on disability issues?

What is your commitment to ensuring that the employment Victorians with disabilities is a real strategy in Disability Action Plans?

What is your commitment to providing funding for Victorians with disabilities to attend mainstream conference to ensure inclusive practices?

2.    HACC (Home Assistance) funding will be split into those under 65 receiving funding from the disability sector and those over 65 receiving funding from the age care sector.

What is the party policy on funding for HACC services?

How will it be managed and funded prior to the introduction of the NDIS?

What is your plan for advising the community of the changes that are coming?

3.    There is massive under availability of accessible housing in Victoria.  At the moment funding of $4,500 is available under SWEP to undertake renovations – for my lifetime – well I’ve already spent $70,000 of that and my bathroom still needs fixing. For people who rent housing, if they leave, they have to restore the house to the original state.

What is the party policy on providing accessible, affordable housing?

Will you ensure that universal access, which we have been pushing for years, finally gets put into place in Victoria?

Will you put pressure on the Social/public Housing sectors to look beyond cultural and social disadvantage to ensuring that housing is not only affordable but accessible?

4.    Victorians with disabilities are not receiving equitable access to justice or health.

What is your policy on ensuring that there is real commitment to the State Disability Plan in that the assessment is done by independent people with disabilities, not by those who wrote the plans?

What is your commitment to paying fees to those who evaluate the plans?

What is your commitment to publishing the results of the evaluation, and implementing a traffic light system?

5.    Victorians with disabilities are not located in one place.  We live across all areas of Victoria – in the city, in the suburbs and in regional and rural communities.  For far too long, Victorians with disabilities have missed out because we can’t get where we need to go in a reasonable time because the taxis won’t take our wheelchairs – or they don’t turn up – or the train driver forgets to let us off at our stop – or the tram that runs past my door has an accessible tram stop, but the tram itself has steps.

What are your policies on ensuring that services are provided where we live, not where it is convenient for bureaucrats?

How are you ensuring that public transport, including taxis, meet the needs of Victorians with disabilities?

What is your commitment to ensuring that accessible trams run on lines that have accessible tram stops?

What is your commitment to ensuring that regional and rural communities have the services in place that meet the needs of Victorians with disabilities?

6.    Many Victorians with disabilities hold driving licenses, but we are continually having to battle with an increasing number of permit holders and a seemingly inability to police infringements. Until you have not been able to attend an event because you are unable to get out of your car, or are unable to get back in your car because someone has parked between your vehicle and the one next to you, you have no idea what it is like.

What is your commitment to centralising the Disability Parking Scheme, which has been promised for years, so that we have one set of rules, one set of assessment and one set of processes for ensuring that permits are only used appropriately?

What is your commitment to enforcing infringements?

What is your commitment to increasing the penalties for parking inappropriately in accessible (disability) parking spaces, in line with other states?

7.    The percentage of people in prison with acquired brain injury or other cognitive impairments is incredibly high.. They are more likely to serve a full term, they are less likely to get community based orders and there are little services to reduce recidivism available. These figures increase if you add the compounding factors of being an aboriginal or having a CALD status.

What is your plan to reduce the incarceration rates of Victorians with disabilities?

How are you ensuring that appropriate support is given to ensure that people know their responsibilities, and understand the consequences of their actions?

How will you ensure that there are appropriate supports in place to ensure that they do not reoffend?

How will you ensure that police are being appropriately trained to recognise ABI and cognitive impairment?

How will you ensure that the court staff are educated to appropriately support people with disabilities?

What is your policy on providing bystander training for men with disabilities?

8.    Women with disabilities are the victims of family violence at higher rates than other women and 68 per cent of women with intellectual disabilities are sexually abused.

What is your commitment to increasing funding to ensure that women with disabilities have appropriate supports to leave violent situations?

What is your commitment to ensuring that brokerage funding is maintained and expanded to enable women to leave violent situations?

How will you ensure that women who cannot speak are able to report crimes when the perpetrator is the person through whom they communicate with the outside world?

9.    Interpreters are taken for granted when a person’s first language is another spoken language.  This same need is not acknowledged when a person is deaf, hard of hearing or has other communication needs.

Will you formally recognise the right of deaf and hard of hearing to have access to Auslan Interpreters when and as needed?

How will you ensure that suitable qualified Auslan interpreters are available for all communication needs, including for access to health and justice and education?

How will you ensure that information is made available in languages that meet the needs of Victorians with disabilities?

What we need is not more tinkering at the edges.  What we need are real policies for real Victorian voters.  After all it is not just me, it is my cohort, our families, our friends and the service sector – we all vote.

Time for all parties to front up.   

About the author: Tricia Malowney is a regular contributor to Pro Bono Australia News and a former President of the Victorian Disability Services Board. In November 2013, Malowney was awarded the inaugural Brenda Gabe Leadership Award for her outstanding contribution to women with disabilities in Victoria. She was the inaugural Chair of the Royal Women’s Hospital Disability Reference Group and was able to influence policy and planning on key issues including the Family Violence Protection Act 2006. She has successfully lobbied for women with disabilities to be included in the United Nations Population Health Research.

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Xavier Smerdon
Journalist
Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.
0 Comments

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