NDIS funds can be used on specialised sex work services… for now
12 May 2020 at 6:03 pm
But the government says using NDIS money on sex work is “not in line with community expectations”
Advocacy groups are calling on the Morrison government to immediately accept a landmark federal court decision allowing people with disability to use their National Disability Insurance Scheme funding for specialised sex work services.
On Tuesday, the federal court unanimously ruled against the National Disability Insurance Agency in favour of a woman living with multiple sclerosis who wanted to include specialised sex work services in her NDIS plan.
While the NDIA has held firm in its position that it does “not fund participation in sexual activity”, the federal court said that the NDIS Act “does not expressly exclude such activities from being funded supports”.
It follows an extensive battle between the woman in her 40’s and the NDIA to have her sex therapy funded.
In July 2019, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled the woman should receive $10,000 a year to fund treatment because seeing a qualified sexual therapist was the only way she could reach sexual release.
But the NDIA swiftly appealed the ruling to the federal court, saying that sex therapy was not a “necessary or reasonable support” the NDIS was intended to cover.
The appeal prompted more than 50 disability organisations to sign a position statement urging the government to include sexuality supports in the NDIS, including funding for sex work and sex therapy services.
El Gibbs, the director of media and communications at People with Disability Australia, said the federal court’s decision to allow people to use their NDIS funding to access sex work services was clear, and must be accepted.
“This courageous person with disability has fought for years to have her right to equal access to ordinary sexual expression funded through her NDIS plan,” Gibbs said.
“We urge the NDIS to accept this decision today, and allow people with disability to fund sexual expression through their plans.”
Decision still not set in stone
A spokesman for NDIS Minister Stuart Robert told the Guardian that while the government respected the court’s decision, it “did not believe the use of NDIS funds to pay for the services of a sex worker is in line with community expectations”.
The spokesman also said the government would now focus on resolving “issues and areas of confusion in the interpretation and definition of ‘reasonable and necessary’”.
Saul Isbister, the president of sex worker advocacy group Touching Base, said like everyone else, people with disability wanted to enjoy consensual intimate experiences.
“As part of exploring their physical, social and emotional needs for sexual intimacy and sexual expression… It is important that paid sexual services are recognised as a legitimate option for people with disability, if they so choose,” Isbister said.
Pro Bono News reached out to Minister Robert’s office for comment.