With the Australian political parties gearing up for the Federal Election next month, disability peak bodies and advocates are calling for a focus on inclusion and support for people living with disability.
Mental Health Australia has written to the leaders of the major parties asking them to lay out their plans for the mental health of all Australians, with one in five reporting mental health illness every year.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mental Health Australia Frank Quinlan says voters demand real plans and policies on mental health to inform their vote.
“Australians want to know what each party plans for the one in five Australians who will be affected by mental health annually. Many of whom will vote on 18 May.
“Australians want to know what the plans are for the children, who with the right support early, might avoid mental illness.
“Australians want to know what the plans are for those who, while ill today, could enjoy better mental health tomorrow.
“Australians want to know what the plans are for the workforce who work tirelessly in a fragmented system, often in the face of unreasonable demands and great policy uncertainty.
“What are the plans for the families and friends who offer unpaid support as carers?”
“What are the plans for workplaces, where lost productivity and lost opportunities for early intervention leave us with greater human suffering and lesser national productivity than we could otherwise enjoy?”
Mr Quinlan says in recent weeks there’s been a lot of talk about the importance of mental health from all sides of politics, but now its time to hear about the detailed policies and plans parties will take to the 2019 Federal Election.
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) also shared their thoughts on key priorities in the disability space that they feel should be actioned by the next Government.
“This year, we want to see all political parties commit to putting people with disability at the heart of their agenda, committing to measures that will demonstrate that we are fully included in all aspects of life in Australia,” President of PWDA Dr David Abello says.
“People with disability are 20 percent of the Australian population, and we want to see real change across the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), employment, violence prevention, justice and income support.
He says PWDA are contacted everyday by people with disability who are finding that the NDIS isn’t working for them and isn’t putting them first.
“The NDIS has to change, so that we are in the driving seat. We are calling for 51 percent of all NDIS staff, including at senior levels and the Board, to be people with disability and a removal of the staffing cap.”
Mr Abello also says the NDIS needs to improve access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability and people with disability from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
Workforce equality and financial security must also be a priority.
“There are still too many barriers that are stopping us from getting the benefits of a job, such as financial security, having more choices and being part of the community.
“We urgently need a National Jobs Plan to change employment inequality for people with disability – only 53 percent of us are in paid work, compared to 82 percent of our non-disabled peers.
“We shouldn’t be living below the poverty line if we can’t work, so we support the urgent calls to raise the rate of Newstart by $75 per week. We also want changes to the Disability Support Pension halted, and a review of all income support for people with disability.
Dr Abello says PWDA is pleased to see the implementation of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability but now needs to see that it is fully funded and resourced to ensure people with disability can safely tell their stories and get the justice they so rightly deserve.
“We have fundamental rights to equality and to live freely in the community and to have a life free from violence and poverty. We call on all political parties to support people with disability in this election,” he says.
Acting CEO of National Disability Services, David Moody says the next Government must ensure the NDIS fulfils its original purpose by reducing red tape, improving market stewardship, greater sector engagement and assistance and adequate pricing.
“We are asking to ensure the NDIS gets on track and delivers on its promise”, he says.
With 1 in 10 disability service providers discussing closing their doors Mr Moody has warned that if the sector experiences market failure the NDIS could collapse, leaving almost half a million Australians with disability without services.
“Our members helped lead the campaign for the NDIS and we continue to support it 100 percent as a vital reform for Australians with disability.
“However, as a direct result of the way the NDIS is being administered, more than half of our members have foreshadowed they will reduce the quality of services.
“Together with our members, we will be continuing to pursue urgent improvements to the way the NDIS is administered to support the sector in delivering the Scheme.”
CEO of Occupational Therapy Australia (OTA) Samantha Hunter penned a written statement to the five major political parties highlighting the NDIS and disability workforce issues that need to be addressed by the elected leader.
“The failure of participants’ first plans is the biggest single impediment to the effective roll-out of the NDIS, indicating that an investment in the improved training of NDIS Planners is essential.
“In the medium to long term, a commitment to getting plans right in the first instance will save the scheme hundreds of millions of dollars
“If elected to government, will your party encourage the NDIA to consult more widely with allied health peak bodies and seek their input on the content of training provided to NDIS Planners?
Ms Hunter says more needs to be done to strengthen our health, aged care and disability workforce.
“In a land as vast as Australia, and with a population as urbanised as Australia’s, it is unsurprising that our health, aged care and disability workforce is stretched so thinly between our major cities.
“But while the problem comes as no surprise, it nonetheless remains a problem.
“Key issues behind these workforce shortages include the difficulty of recruiting and retaining workers, high turnover rates, inadequate availability of senior/experienced staff, and an oversupply of part-time and casual workers.
“Education must play a key role in any long-term solution to this problem
“If elected to government, will your party commit to addressing workforce shortages, and consequently reduced access to essential services, in rural, regional and remote parts of Australia?” she asks.
The Federal Election will take place on 18 May.