Disability and Budget 2017 – What’s Missing?
10 May 2017 at 11:53 am
The federal budget makes some welcome funding inclusions affecting people with disability but what’s missing is education reform for students with disability, writes advocate Stephanie Gotlib.
The federal government has delivered a budget that includes a welcome measure to ensure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is fully funded, with a 0.5 per cent Medicare levy increase, giving people with disability confidence about the long-term funding security of the scheme.
The increased funding for pathways to employment for people with disability is also a positive inclusion in the budget. What is missing is a clearly defined education reform for students with disability. Young people with disability face barriers to employment because of discrimination, poor post-school transition, inaccessible workplaces and lack of access to a quality education.
A 5.2 per cent increase in education funding for students with disability has been included in this budget but it is unclear how this figure has been reached and whether this is an adequate response to the huge unmet need which currently exists.
Increased funding on its own will not deliver the systemic reforms required to improve educational outcomes for students with disability.
ABS data shows that in Australia close to 60 per cent of people with disability have not completed Year 12. It is critical that education is a key companion reform for people with disability.
A person could have world-class services and supports but we know that without a quality education life opportunities are greatly diminished. Children and young people with disability are not going to get ahead if we don’t fix the education system.
Last year’s report from the Education and Employment References Committee following a Senate Inquiry highlighted the disadvantage and discrimination students with disability face in our school system and called for urgent action.
The committee made a broad range of recommendations, including the urgent implementation of needs-based funding and appropriate training of educators to educate and include students with disability. My organisation, Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA), supports these recommendations.
Students with disability contend with barriers and disadvantage within the education system. A typical education experience for students with disability involves discrimination, limited or no funding for support, inadequate expertise of staff, a systemic culture of low expectations, exclusion and bullying.
There are also increasing incidents of restraint and seclusion being reported to CYDA. Poor experiences and poor outcomes have become the norm for students with disability due to the inadequacies in our education system.
Education is a key determinant of future life outcomes and opportunities. The government must make a commitment to fully fund national education reforms and students and families need to be clear how this is going to make a difference to their lives. Children and young people with disability have a right to a quality education and without appropriate funding students with disability slip through the cracks.
About the author: Stephanie Gotlib is chief executive officer of Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) the national representative persons organisation for children and young people with disability aged 0 to 25 years. She also has personal experience of disability as a parent and a sibling.