Inclusive communities for people with disability, older people and carers

You are reading Chapter 9 of 'Delivering Fairness', 2019 VCOSS Budget Submission

Genuinely including everybody in our community means people can develop relationships, be independent, and lead active lives.[1]

By improving access to buildings and transport; delivering accessible, up-to-date information and services; and challenging stereotypes and discrimination, the Victorian Government can help break down the barriers holding people back, leaving them out, or leading to abuse and neglect.

As state-funded disability and aged care systems are dismantled and transferred, the Victorian Government must ensure they remain accessible and available. Safeguards must be maintained and strengthened.

The Victorian Government has made decisive commitments in releasing the Victorian Carer Strategy[2] and the Disability Advocacy Futures Plan.[3] These can be backed up with deeper commitments and secure funding so everyone can participate in Victoria’s rich community life.

 

 Amplify the voices of people with disability

Lock in disability advocacy funding permanently

Disability advocacy empowers people with disability and their families and carers to understand their rights, communicate and meet their needs.[1] The NDIS and other changes to disability services are increasing the volume and complexity of advocacy cases, putting advocacy organisations under stress.[2]

The Victorian Disability Advocacy Futures Plan increases core advocacy funding and provides advocacy grants in the short term.[3] But disability advocacy organisations face dramatic funding drops after June 2020, when the Advocacy Plan funding boost and Federal commitments expire. Advocacy organisations cannot protect the rights of people with disability if they are constantly trapped in short-term funding cycles.

Recurrent, expanded advocacy funding helps organisations plan for the future and reach more people with disability, including those in marginalised communities and those who have previously missed out on advocacy. Expanding advocacy also makes economic sense – for every $1 invested, governments save $3.50.[4]

 

 Stop disability service gaps emerging

Maintain state-funded services through the NDIS transition

About 105,000 Victorians will be NDIS participants at full roll-out. [5] But one million Victorians with disability will be ineligible,[6] and need services outside the NDIS. Many program funds are being reallocated to the NDIS, leaving little else. Addressing service gaps is especially urgent for people experiencing mental illness, older Victorians, and carers.

Simultaneously, the NDIS and other service systems are handballing responsibility for funding services, including in health, justice, housing, transport and child protection. Both NDIS and mainstream services claim the other has responsibility to provide services, leaving people stuck in the middle without the help they need.[7]

People with disability and their families and carers need access to quality services, regardless of their NDIS eligibility. Being left without support risks people’s physical and mental health, and increases pressure on other, more expensive services, including hospitals, crisis services and the justice system. It also increases reliance on family and carers.

All governments remain responsible for inclusive, decently funded, mainstream services for people with disability and their carers – including those ineligible for the NDIS. The Victorian Government must ensure systems work seamlessly before de-funding services as the Victorian NDIS roll-out concludes in 2019.

 

 Launch a super-stop and station access building blitz

Launch a dedicated accessible transport fund to accelerate upgrades

Everyone needs to be able to get to work, school or appointments, but outdated public transport infrastructure can stymie people’s attempts. Too often, whether people can use public transport depends on things like where they live, when they’re travelling, their income, or whether they have a disability.

Mary rural and regional areas have limited public transport,[8] and even less accessible public transport.[9] Even Melbourne is failing to meet its accessibility targets, with less than a quarter of tram stops[10] currently meeting the Accessible Transport Standards.[11] A recent investigation found more than two thirds of people with disability said transport inaccessibility meant they missed out on valuable activities.[12]

While progress is being made, it is painfully slow. The Victorian Government needs to accelerate public transport accessibility improvements, including by rapidly rolling out accessible tram super-stops and fully accessible train station retrofits. Establishing a dedicated, long-term government investment fund would allow systematic planning and sequencing of legacy infrastructure upgrades to maximise access for all Victorians.[13]

 

 Champion and sustain carers

Deliver respite care, sustain peer support, and bolster carers beyond the NDIS roll-out

More than 770,000 Victorians care for those they love, without being paid.[14] Family and friends provide deep interpersonal relationships and continuous support not easily replaced by paid carers.

The Victorian Carer Strategy 2018–22 recognises carers’ rights and begins to strategically address the unique and specific needs of people in care relationships.[15] The strategy reflects different care experiences, including both young and older carers, on issues like employment, health, education and financial disadvantage.

In the lead-up to the Victorian Election, the Government committed to nearly $50 million in funding for an extra 100,000 hours of respite care each year, and $4 million in grants for carer support groups.[16] The next step is to begin implementing the carer strategy, so adequate support is available for Victorian carers as the NDIS rollout finishes this year, and beyond.

 

 Produce a blueprint for ageing in Victoria

Develop and implement a future-focussed state-wide ageing strategy

By 2031, almost one in four Victorians will be over 60.[17] The challenges this creates and the opportunities it brings can be best met if we thoughtfully plan now, through collaboration across generations, to meet our community’s changing needs.

An ageing population brings new economic and social opportunities – if we embrace what modern ageing can bring.[18]

Older Victorians want to remain active in communities comprising people of all ages, including by sharing their wisdom and skills with others through work and volunteering. They want secure, affordable and accessible homes as they age, connected to services and opportunities with good access to transport. They want to be included in community life through a variety of communication methods, and not forced to use digital services.[19]

A Victorian ageing strategy can strategically identify the challenges and opportunities an ageing population brings, and whole-of-government actions to support better access and inclusion. It can reflect our diverse community, including the needs of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, older people with disability, and the LGBTIQ community.[20]

 

 Combat elder abuse

Deliver an integrated strategy to address elder abuse

Around one in six older people experience elder abuse.[21] Elder abuse is any action that harms or distresses an older person, carried out by someone they know, including physical violence, psychological or emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.[22]

The Victorian Government can make a strong commitment to improving safety and inclusion for older Victorians, by creating a Victorian elder abuse strategy. A collaboratively developed platform, co-designed with older people, community organisations and business, can promote the dignity, agency and autonomy of older people,[23] and recognise discrimination’s multi-layered impact. It can provide a solid foundation for co-ordination and co-producing services across government and the community.[24]

An overarching strategy should include enduring support for local elder abuse prevention networks, resourcing frontline staff training to detect and respond to abuse, and investing in specialist services to help meet growing demand for information, advocacy and support.[25]

 

 Further strategies

Guarantee safeguards to protect people with disability

Despite numerous reviews and inquiries, people with disability face high levels of violence, abuse and neglect. The NDIS helps in some ways, but also brings new safety and quality challenges. The Victorian Government has a continuing role to create and maintain strong safeguards outside the NDIS, especially for mainstream services.

Expand disability and inclusion training

Workers, especially in the public sector, provide many critical services. But people with disability report that workers are missing basic information on providing appropriate support to people with disability.[26] The Victorian Government can expand its capacity to train workers, using a human rights approach and emphasising participation and inclusion.[27]

Increase access to public spaces

Victoria can build more inclusive public places by ensuring new developments are accessible, and investing in initiatives such as Changing Places facilities (fully accessible toilets and changing rooms) to increase the accessibility of existing spaces.[28]

 

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Artwork by artist Jacob Komesaroff. Follow on Instagram @jkomments