Coalition of disability groups demand action on NDIS funding for sex services
29 August 2019 at 3:27 pm
Disability advocates are calling on the Morrison government to develop a sexuality policy for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, warning that participants are being denied full autonomy over their own bodies.
More than 40 disability groups have signed a position statement, released on Wednesday, which urges the government to include sexuality supports in the NDIS, including funding for sex work and sex therapy services.
Advocates have been bolstered by a recent Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruling which awarded a woman with multiple sclerosis the right to have a sex therapist paid for by the scheme.
Saul Isbister, president of sex worker advocacy group Touching Base, said some people with disability needed help to express their sexuality and have fulfilling sexual experiences.
“The NDIS needs to include access to these supports, and not deny their sexual expression,” Isbister said.
He said the recent AAT ruling showed that funding for these kinds of services was reasonable and necessary.
“I’ve been so pleased by the levels of support and encouragement that have come in since the AAT decision was announced,” he said.
“This shows that the community understands the very basic concept that people with disability have sex, just like non-disabled people, and may need to access support for their sexual expression.”
The government remains steadfastly opposed to any sexual services being funded through the NDIS and is appealing the AAT ruling.
NDIS Minister Stuart Robert said last month these services were not in line with community expectations of what reasonable and necessary supports are.
A spokesperson for the minister told Pro Bono News the National Disability Insurance Agency did not believe sex services should be funded through the scheme.
“This continues to be the current position under the NDIS. The NDIS does not cover sexual services, sexual therapy or sex workers in a participant’s NDIS plan,” the spokesperson said.
But advocates note that previous state-based disability systems allowed for people with disability to use sexual services according to their individual needs and goals.
The position statement said the NDIS was further perpetuating a stigma that meant people with disability were “constantly being denied full autonomy over [their] own bodies”.
Susan Helyar, executive director of the ACT Council of Social Service, said the Morrison government and the NDIA needed to show leadership on the issue.
“Having a wide ranging and supportive position on sexuality would be an opportunity for the NDIA to recognise the long-standing position of state and territory governments and disability services, and take a stand for the rights of people with disability,” Helyar said.