Adjournment – Disability Services

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I rise today to speak on behalf of people in my electorate of Bonner who provide unwavering support and/or care for people with disabilities.

I am speaking today on behalf of people like Jody Florence from Carindale, a tireless advocate and volunteer for people with disabilities and the mother of a child with a disability; like Peter Connolly from Mount Gravatt, who has 40 years experience supporting people with an intellectual disability and who is father to Damien, a 45-year-old man with an intellectual disability; like Terry Forster, principal of the Mount Gravatt Special School, who is passionate about achieving systematic reform for disability support; like Kathy Stone, president of the P&C association of the Mount Gravatt Special School community, the parent of a child with a disability and someone who knows firsthand the demands placed upon families that love and care for these most disadvantaged and most often marginalised members of our society; and also like Kath Coory, a diligent worker in the disability community and mother of a daughter who attends Darling Point Special School in Manly.

These wonderful members of our community have shared with me their personal experience of what they consider to be a deeply flawed and inadequate system in Australia for people with disabilities. They have told me that there are insufficient funds and inadequate services to provide for the needs of people with disabilities and that, without a substantial change in direction, the situation will increasingly get worse.
In Queensland the problems for the disabled, their carers, their families and their supporters, they have warned me, are as acute as anywhere in Australia. Based on government figures, there are 5,000 to 6,000 people in my electorate of Bonner with a profound or severe disability. Peter Connolly tells me that the situation in Queensland is improving but that there is a long way to go, as progress has come from such a low base.

The level of support a person with a disability receives can depend on a number of factors: what state they live in; whether the disability is congenital or was acquired; and, if acquired, whether it was acquired in the workplace, in a motor vehicle accident or in some other context. The result is that many people with a disability are left without the assistance they need.

With an ageing population and a frayed patchwork of support for Australians with a disability, there is community consensus that we need to do better. There is a particular concern for people with severe disabilities, who need long-term care, and for those carers who are no longer able to provide constant care and support. As many of us in this House will be aware, a scheme for change, known as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, was presented to the federal government and then referred to the Productivity Commission for consideration. The idea of a national scheme that moves to support a system based on need rather than rationing is certainly worthy of examination. I, along with members of the coalition, support the referral of the concept of a national disability insurance scheme to the Productivity Commission for inquiry.

Australians with a disability should be supported properly regardless of how they acquired their disability. Peter Connolly believes that the proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme includes a number of positive aspects, such as a lifetime approach to care and support for people with a disability, which would replace the current arrangements for funding specialist disability services. The proposed model would assess the risk of disability in the general population, calculate the costs of meeting the essential lifetime needs arising out of these disabilities and estimate the premium or contribution required from taxpayers to meet these needs. Instead of funding capped programs and services for people with disability to find and access the scheme, this would fund on the basis of each individual’s need, which would in turn drive the development of necessary care and support services.

However, while Jody Florence believes that these aspects are positive, she also believes that they are the most basic of requirements and that much more needs to be done. There is no doubt that there is strong interest from the disability sector in reforming this policy area. This is evidenced by the many people in Bonner whom I have referred to today. I will continue to engage with my community as to how the government can better deliver support on the basis of individual need, and I am looking forward to the Productivity Commission’s findings. I am confident that a support scheme based on individual need will be just the beginning of wide-ranging reforms in the area of disability support.

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