Report finds people with disability ‘aren’t getting a fair go’
4 September 2019 at 4:10 pm
People with disability are four times more likely to experience high psychological distress than other Australians, according to new research.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) latest report used a range of national data sources to create the organisation’s first comprehensive look at the lives of people with disability.
It found the disability community suffered poorer outcomes in areas such as mental and physical health, employment outcomes and education.
Almost a third of adults with disability (32 per cent) said they experienced high/very high psychological distress, compared to eight per cent of people without disability.
People with disability were six times as likely to rate their health as poor or fair compared to people without disability – 42 per cent to seven per cent – while almost half of people with disability (47 per cent) have experienced violence as an adult.
Working-age people with disability (10 per cent) were also twice as likely as those without disability (five per cent) to be unemployed.
Jeff Smith, the CEO of People with Disability Australia (PWDA), told Pro Bono News he was not surprised by the research findings.
“This report echoes what we know – that people with disability in Australia aren’t getting a fair go, at work, in health or in access to mainstream services,” Smith said.
“The shocking statistics on violence show why the upcoming disability royal commission is so important, and will be a chance to have a national conversation about how to improve the lives of people with disability.”
PWDA recently surveyed nearly 900 people with disability and uncovered similar issues among the disability community.
It found a majority (61 per cent) of people were unable to access the support they need, while 77 per cent have experienced discrimination because of their disability.
Smith said many people with disability struggled due to poverty and a lack of services.
“More work needs to be done, via the National Disability Strategy, to make mainstream services accessible, particularly given that the majority of people with disability will not have access to the NDIS,” he said.
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) CEO Ross Joyce welcomed the AIHW report, noting he would discuss these issues with all levels of government and as part of future submissions.
He said one area of particular concern was education, with the report highlighting that only 32 per cent of people with disability completed high school compared to 62 per cent of those without disability.
“Participation and completion of education, both secondary and tertiary, is an issue for people with disability in being able to break from disadvantage and fully participate in all aspects of society,” Joyce told Pro Bono News.
The report said there was a key information gap about what services people with disability used, across mainstream and specialist areas, and also how coordinated, timely and effective they were.
AIHW indicated it would work with other statistical agencies to help fix these gaps.