Culturally Diverse People With Disability Struggling to Engage With NDIS
8 February 2019 at 4:42 pm
People with disability from non-English speaking backgrounds are accessing disability services up to two-thirds less than Australian-born people despite having similar rates of disability, according to a new report.
Settlement Services International’s (SSI) latest policy paper said people with disability from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds were struggling to engage with the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The report noted barriers to inclusion such as cultural stigmas around disability, a distrust of government agencies, and language barriers, arguing that a comprehensive cultural competence framework was needed for the disability service system.
Karen Bevan, SSI general manager for community service delivery, told Pro Bono News while an estimated 23 per cent of Australians were from a CALD background, data showed just 7 per cent of NDIS participants at the end of 2017 identified as CALD.
She said some CALD people did not even know the NDIS existed.
“We still have a long way to go in reaching out to people who may have English as a second or third language and who may not have actually been in the disability system to start with,” Bevan said.
“We know people are learning about disability while they’re learning about the NDIS. So as many CALD people are coming to terms with or understanding what their disability is, they’re also trying to work out what’s available.
“That’s a very high level of processing for people, especially when you’ve got a system that’s really set up for those who can just walk in and navigate it.”
An evaluation of the trial of the NDIS by the National Institute of Labour Studies (NILS) found the scheme had left several minorities, including people from CALD backgrounds, no better off or even in a worse situation.
Evidence indicates that people with disability from CALD backgrounds have historically had much lower utilisation rates of disability services – about half to one-third of Australian-born people – despite no evidence this was a reflection of their preferences or that they needed less help.
The government recently published the NDIS Cultural and Linguistic Diversity Strategy 2018, which commits to give people with disability from CALD backgrounds equal opportunity to benefit from the NDIS.
But the latest report said the strategy would be enhanced by a more comprehensive framework that included the dimensions of cultural competence – defined as a set of consistent policies and practices that came together to allow a system or professionals “to work effectively in cross-cultural situations”.
“We need to really embed a cultural competency framework into the NDIS rollout but that needs to come with a range of soft entry programs that support people from CALD backgrounds into NDIS pathways or else helps them find pathways into other services and supports,” Bevan said.
The report noted there were a number of programs that already fitted well within a cultural competence framework and were working to “shift the needle” towards stronger inclusion of CALD people with disability.
One of these is Ability Links NSW, which uses intermediaries called “linkers” to support people with disability and their families to identify their goals and connect with community and mainstream services.
SSI is one of the providers of Ability Links, and Bevan said there was great potential for Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) initiatives like this to deliver stronger outcomes for CALD people with disability.
“The program puts social infrastructure in communities and creates those soft entry pathways into services,” she said.
“Lots of our linkers tell us what they do with people is often help them to understand the NDIS and then stand alongside them as they go through the process of having their needs met.”
Bevan said SSI supported the recent recommendation of the Productivity Commission to increase funding for ILC initiatives to $131 million a year until 2023.
SSI’s report will be launched at an SSI Speaker Series event in Sydney on 13 February.