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Deliver for people with disability, older people and carers

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All Victorians are entitled to a safe, dignified and enjoyable life. When a person can engage in the world around them, maintain friendships and participate in activities, they are happier and healthier. This delivers both social and economic benefits. A person free of structural barriers is also more able to get a job or engage in study, and is more productive.

However, this is not the case for many people with disability and older Victorians. Inadequate infrastructure, poorly-designed services, inaccessible information and negative community attitudes can make life harder for people with disability and older people. They are also subject to violence and exploitation at higher levels than the general population.

Carers provide essential support to many groups in our community, including people with disability, older people and those with chronic health conditions. Care responsibilities can make life hard for carers too. Carers provide an average of 13 hours of unpaid care each week, and many carers work countless more hours. This workload limits a carer’s ability to get a job, play sport, catch up with friends or engage in the community more broadly.

More must be done to ensure people with disability, older people and their carers can live a good life.

Major reforms in both disability and aged care services have dramatically changed how services are accessed and delivered. The NDIS promises to deliver much better outcomes for people with disability, but the shift to individualised funding models has created challenges for some people in getting the services they need.

The Victorian Government has a responsibility to ensure reforms deliver high quality, accessible services for all eligible Victorians. The NDIS must be designed and resourced to support people with complex needs and people facing disadvantage. Robust quality assurance mechanisms must also be implemented to prevent violence, abuse and neglect for all people accessing disability and mainstream services.

Increase advocacy support for Victorians with disability

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Increase Victorian disability advocacy funding to $5.1 million annually.

 

The Victorian Government should match per capita Australian Government disability advocacy funding by increasing the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program funding to $5.1 million annually, as recommended by the Productivity Commission.

Many Victorians with disability don’t have a voice, or struggle to be heard. In the worst cases, this leads to serial neglect or outright abuse. Independent disability advocates directly act for people with disability, protecting their human rights and seeking redress for rights violations. Disability advocacy also cost effective, saving government $3.50 for every dollar invested.

Both the Victorian Ombudsman’s report into abuse in the disability sector and the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry Into Abuse In Disability Services identified disability advocacy as a core protection against abuse and neglect of people with disability, but found it was underfunded.

The Victorian Disability Advocacy Program provides individual advocacy support to about 1,700 new people every year. However, there are more than one million people with disability in Victoria. Demand has already begun to increase as a result of the NDIS. The Productivity Commission recommends state and territory governments provide per capita matched funding for the National Disability Advocacy Program, finding that advocates help participants navigate NDIS processes and disability services. They also help them exercise choice and control.

Disability advocacy is particularly important for people who are marginalised or have complex needs, such as people with intellectual disability, those with limited or no speech, and people with no family or informal support network.

Securing eligibility for the NDIS

Dale* lives near the border of the NDIS trial site in Victoria. Dale was attending rehabilitation in the trial site and told that he was NDIS-eligible. His social worker, therapist, relatives and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) checked this with the NDIA which confirmed he met the criteria. An NDIS application was completed by therapists while in rehabilitation, and Dale was sent home due to NDIS support being imminent.

Months later, Dale was informed he was not within the region and was declined NDIS entry until 2018. The NDIA had repeatedly given incorrect information about Dale’s eligibility, resulting in an incorrect application.

Dale approached a disability advocate for assistance, who submitted an application to the NDIA for a review. The advocate explained the disadvantage caused by the incorrect information given and asked that the NDIA take him on under the NDIS despite being outside the region.

The advocate also provided ongoing follow-up due to slow responses, and provided extra information to the manager in charge of the complaint. The NDIA took responsibility for providing incorrect information, and accepted Dale as an NDIS participant.

* name has been changed to protect the individual’s privacy

Acknowledge and address emerging gaps in disability services

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  • Undertake and publish rigorous mapping to identify gaps in disability service delivery during the rollout of the NDIS.
  • Provide detail about funding sources for service continuity.

 

The Victorian Government has promised “continuity of care” for people with disabilities and their carers during the transition to the NDIS. However, VCOSS members report that disability service gaps are emerging. Lack of certainty around funding is creating distress for organisations and individuals.

Serious concerns have been expressed about services for:

  • mental health consumers with moderate or severe conditions who will not meet the eligibility criteria for the NDIS
  • people with disability who do not meet the eligibility criteria for the NDIS
  • people aged 65 and over, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 and over, who will only be eligible to receive support through the aged care system.

There is also funding uncertainty for emergency and planned respite for carers, and other carer-specific supports, capacity-building supports and information and referral services, such as RuralAccess, MetroAccess and deafaccess services, and the Autism Advisor service under the Helping Children with Autism package.

VCOSS understands the Victorian Government is closely monitoring the emergence of service gaps on an ongoing basis during the transition to the NDIS. However, this information must be made publicly available to provide greater transparency.

The Victorian Government must also commit to funding any service gaps identified through the mapping process. This might be direct funding or funding in partnership with the NDIS or the Australian Government, depending on the service identified as at-risk.

Local Disability Access programs

MetroAccess, RuralAccess and deafaccess workers make local communities more inclusive for people with disability. They facilitate integrated local planning across the community to improve infrastructure and the accessibility of mainstream services including education and training, transport, health, housing, sport, arts and recreation. They also provide support and help identify gaps and solutions to issues experienced by people with disability.

MetroAccess, RuralAccess and deafaccess workers operate in the majority of local government areas and help embed disability access and inclusion into council planning and projects. These programs are well-regarded by the disability sector and have been instrumental in piloting new initiatives such as ‘Changing Places’ and driving systemic change.

 

Improve mobility options

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  • Fund more accessibility upgrades of legacy public transport infrastructure.
  • Expand the scope of the Multi-Purpose Taxi Program to include ride-sharing and community transport.

 

To expand the transport options for people with disability and older people, the Victorian Government should upgrade legacy infrastructure to meet accessibility standards, and expand the Multi-Purpose Taxi Program to include ride-sharing and community transport alternatives.

Trams, trains and buses in Victoria remain inaccessible to many people with disability, in both metropolitan Melbourne and country areas. Issues relate to both physical inaccessibility and a lack of accessible information, such as captioning of public announcements.

Community transport in Victoria is also dramatically underfunded. Service operators receive money from both the state and federal governments, depending on who they transport. But these funding allocations have never been enough to meet demand, leaving many people with disability and older Victorians stranded and isolated in their homes, forced to use expensive alternatives or rely on the goodwill of family and friends.

The result is reduced transport options and a decreased quality of life for many people, including those with disability, older people and parents with young children. Without transport, people can’t get to work, attend school, attend health or service appointments or visit family members.

A long history of insufficient upgrades to the public transport system means the Victorian Government will not achieve the required 90 per cent compliance with the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 by December 2017. While new transport infrastructure and vehicles are supposed to meet these standards, there is a backlog of inaccessible legacy infrastructure. The Victorian Government should embark on large-scale ‘legacy upgrades’ to modernise ageing infrastructure to contemporary accessibility standards.

The Multi-Purpose Taxi Program (MPTP) makes point-to-point transport more affordable for eligible people, however, it is currently restricted to taxis. At the same time, the Victorian Government is proposing to deregulate taxi fares, potentially increasing the costs to users. The MPTP should be expanded to include ride-sharing services and community transport to give people greater choice and flexibility to travel independently, and reduce their transport costs.

Fund a whole-of-government carer strategy

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Fund and implement a state-wide, whole-of-government carer strategy.

 

The Victorian Government can improve the health and wellbeing of carers by funding and implementing a state-wide, whole-of-government carer strategy. There are more than 773,400 unpaid Victorian carers, about one-quarter of whom are primary carers. These carers provide essential support to the people they care for, reducing their own social and economic participation. Caring also affects their mental and physical wellbeing.

Too often, carers miss out on accessing services they are eligible for due to limited awareness of them, difficulty navigating the service systems, and lack of carer identification and referral. There are also emerging gaps in carer-specific supports, particularly respite, both inside and outside the NDIS. For example, about half of primary mental health carers reported unmet support needs, such as access to respite, counselling and adequate financial support.

A funded, whole-of-government carer strategy, which recognises carers’ rights as citizens, can help address the unique and specific needs of people in care relationships across employment, health and education. The strategy can include a clear vision and targets for all carers, and reflect the breadth of care experiences, including people caring for older people, people with mental illness and people with disability. It must also address the unique needs of young carers.

An integrated, state-wide strategy can assist carers to navigate service systems and overcome barriers to social and economic participation, providing carers with the same opportunities as other members of the community.

 

Further strategies

 

Help older Victorians lead dignified lives

The Victorian Government can support older Victorians to lead safe, happy, productive and dignified lives by developing an integrated, whole-of-government strategy for older Victorians and implementing state-based recommendations from the Australian Law Reform Commission’s elder abuse inquiry.

Victoria has no overarching strategy to meet the changing demands of an ageing population. A strategy could help bring together different portfolios to respond and address the needs of older Victorians. These include maintaining access to affordable and secure housing, providing high quality healthcare and aged care, transport and community services, and driving cultural change to help combat ageism.

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