Disability rights paramount

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The government's recent changes to the Disability Support Pension, introduced as part of Welfare to Work, have made life a lot tougher for people with disabilities and their carers.

People are being shifted from disability pensions to Newstart Allowance, reducing their income but are not receiving adequate training or support necessary to get a job. Now these very same people are realising that they could have the power to turn the tables on the government and affect the outcome of this crucial federal election.

All Australians have a right to independence, self-determination and choice in their lives. People who experience disability and their families and carers should have the opportunity to actively participate in policy and service planning and delivery.

I have been working in the Senate and with community groups for the last two years in trying to bring attention to vital issues relating to Disability Services and Carers. As Co-Convener of the Parliamentary Friends of People with a Disability I have been involved in numerous discussions concerning issues of importance to people with disabilities and their carers. I was also an active participant in the Senate Committee review of the CSTDA.

With the government holding control of both houses it has been hard to get attention on important disability issues but we have managed to make a few gains such as consensus support on the recommendations of the CSTDA inquiry. Key recommendations in the review included:

• Substantially increased funding to address unmet need,

• CSTDA should involve a ‘whole of life' and whole of government approach, which enables easy transference between jurisdictions,

• Clear indicators of unmet need to be developed as well as substantial additional funding committed to address unmet need, particularly for accommodation and support,

• Individualised funding, in house care, early intervention and a range of flexible options are important.

With the federal election before us, we have a chance to highlight these important issues, and to perhaps see a change in majority control of both houses.

Disability rights campaigners Campaign Enable, an action plan being coordinated in marginal electorates by the Australia Fair lobby group, have identified a list of key marginal seats where the number of people receiving the disability support pension is much greater than the number of votes needed to swing the seat.

Hopefully this will force both the Howard Government and the ALP to address the growing number of problems within the disability sector, and come up with effective strategies accordingly.