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Call for Safeguards for Students with Disability

7 April 2015 at 12:30 pm
Xavier Smerdon
A national safeguards regime needs to be established, as part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme rollout, to protect school students with disabilities from restrictive practices, according to the Federal Government.

Xavier Smerdon | 7 April 2015 at 12:30 pm


Call for Safeguards for Students with Disability
7 April 2015 at 12:30 pm

A national safeguards regime needs to be established, as part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme rollout, to protect school students with disabilities from restrictive practices, according to the Federal Government.

The Assistant Minister for Social Services Senator Mitch Fifield made the comment after it emerged that an ACT primary school student with autism was put in a cage-like space at school.

“It’s appalling, what we’ve heard from the ACT. Regrettably, we do hear of instances around Australia in schools from time to time where there are inappropriate restrictive practices used,” Senator Fifield said.

The ACT Minister for Disability, Joy Burch, has instigated an inquiry into the claim.

“But this is something that we need to look at not just in schools, but also as we look to the rollout of the NDIS nationwide,” Senator Fifield said.

“At the moment, the safeguards arrangements for people with disability are essentially state-based. With the NDIS nationwide, we will need a national safeguards regime in place.

“We currently have a discussion paper out for public comment that will go to things such as the complaints process for people, how providers are accredited.

“State Governments are responsible for their schools and what happens within them. But I would hope that there would be some things that State Governments could learn from the exercise that we’ll be going through nationally to set up safeguards for the NDIS.”

Former former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, went a step further saying such abuses were widespread and called for a broad inquiry into the treatment of children with disabilities in Australian schools.

"It's not an isolated incident," Innes told Fairfax Media.

"I hear about these incidents relatively regularly. I think there is a need to look at it far more broadly than just in the ACT."

Kate Ellis, Shadow Minister for Education, supported Graeme Innes’ call for an inquiry into the education of children with disability.

She said the reports of mistreatment of students with disability in the school system were shocking and deeply disturbing.

“The abuse or neglect of students with disability is absolutely unacceptable,” Ellis said.

“Labor believes all children – including those with disability – deserve the best education and should be treated with dignity and respect at all times.

“The education of students with disability must be examined in an open and transparent way, and we believe the Human Rights Commission is the right body to do this. This also highlights the need to re-instate a dedicated Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

“We need to hear the voice of parents of children with disabilities as well as schools and teachers in such an inquiry.

“Parents of children with disability are often made to feel like troublemakers because they demand support for their child at school and that’s just not right.

“The Abbott Government must acknowledge that schools are already under stress and cutting education funding to states as planned will only make matters worse.

“The Gonski review found that too many children with disability were missing out on the support they need, with terrible consequences for students' educational attainment and life outcomes.”

Children with Disability Australia (CDA), the national peak body which represents children and young people with disability, said it was receiving an increasing number of reports of students with disability being subjected to restrictive practices in schools.

“These cases are not the norm, but they are not isolated either,” CDA CEO Stephanie Gotlib said.

“This increased incidence is a clear indication that the system is not adequately meeting the needs of students with disability. In addition, CDA hears about students with disabilities’ poor education outcomes and experiences on a daily basis.

“It is absolutely vital that teachers and schools can access the expertise and resources needed to ensure a quality education can be provided to students with disability. Cultural change is also needed so that there is no longer a culture of low expectations for students with disability. None of this reform can occur without a much needed boost in funding.”

CDA has published an issues paper, Enabling and Protecting: Proactive Approaches to Addressing the Abuse and Neglect of Children and Young People with Disability in conjunction with Dr Sally Robinson of the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University, addressing the issues.

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

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

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