28 November 2011

What Women Want: An NDIS for women with disability

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The disability support system in both the ACT and Australia wide has long been in need of an overhaul. People with disabilities are often unable to participate in all aspects of life like people without disabilities, because there is not enough care and support available to them.

Nearly 100,000 Australians have already put their hope for change behind the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) through the Every Australian Counts campaign. The NDIS, proposed by the Disability Care and Support Productivity Commission (February, 2011) recommends improving the way in which disability services are funded and delivered, by providing more person-centred and individualised services.

This change to the disability support system is especially vital for women with disabilities who face discrimination not only based on their disability, but based on their gender. In the ACT, 18% of women have a disability, of which 5% have a disability that severely limits their core activities (ABS, 2009). Because of their gender, these women have different experiences and therefore needs from services and supports.

For example, women with disabilities are more likely to feel unsafe due to an increased risk of sexual assault and violence. One woman who told her story for the Every Australian Counts campaign, Claire, reports that because the current system lacks resources and person-centeredness, she was placed in a vulnerable position when she could not open the door to her home due to loss of mobility. Claire says:

“I had to get in through the side gate… But I couldn’t put a padlock on it. I applied for some funding for alterations to my front door so I could come in and out. It took 12 months from the first phone call to the new door being fitted. While I didn’t have a lock on my back gate, I was vulnerable, and I had someone break into my house while I was home. It was very scary – being a single woman on my own and hearing someone coming into my home in my back window. It took me quite a while to sleep again after that (Every Australian Counts, 2011).”

Other gendered issues that women with disabilities experience include:

  • Reproductive and sexual health needs
  • Status as primary providers and carers of children
  • Increased risk of experiencing poverty and violence
  • Housing difficulties due to low income, special needs and discrimination
  • Underrepresentation in the workforce and higher unemployment

Women – with disability or without disability – are more vulnerable than men to experiencing all of these issues. In almost every society, women’s status remains lower than men’s. This is reflected in the high incidence of violence against women; women’s lower socio-economic status; an under-representation of women in positions of power; and an over-representation of women in part-time and casual work, amongst other things. However, in every category women with disabilities are further disadvantaged, and despite this, services are less accessible for women with disabilities

The proposed NDIS offers hope that support systems for people with disabilities can be more gender sensitive, by allowing greater consumer control over supports, therefore taking into account gendered life circumstances. For women with disabilities, this means that gender-stereotyping and lower social status are taken into account when considering their support needs. For example, in the current system services are delivered by organisations funded for disability support whereas under the proposed NDIS, women will able to ‘purchase’ supports from a wider number of services to more holistically meet their needs.

In August this year the Federal Government announced their support for the NDIS and are currently deciding what shape the reforms will take. It is essential that they respect and fulfil the Productivity Commission’s call to change the system which is “inequitable, underfunded, fragmented and inefficient and give people with disability little choice” (February, 2011).

Disability is likely to touch the lives of many people in the ACT, through personal experience or through the experience of family and friends. The Canberra community must support the NDIS, and the ACT Government must continue to back the scheme and cooperate with the National rollout. The NDIS is one step closer to meeting the gendered needs of women with disabilities, and achieving equal participation in the ACT community.

The Women’s Centre for Health Matters is supporting the Every Australian Counts ‘Spread the Word Week’ from November 27 – December 3.

For more information see the Every Australian Counts campaign, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Women’s Centre for Health Matters.

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Antagonist said :

Don’t make this about men vs wimmin. Make it about being accessable to those who need it.


This is a complete work of fiction. You think these issues only relate to disabled women? Now THAT is sexism and hypocrisy. Looks to me like the WCHM is struggling to maintain relevance.

The problem (in my long experience as a full time carer for my disabled wife and son) is actually accessing services. It has nothing to do with gender. For example, I was very excited to learn about Carers ACT … until learning it is based in Holt, along with all services provided. So to anyone in Tuggeranong, Carers might as well be on the freakin moon. And so it goes with the majority of other services we need to access. They are there … just out of arms reach.

Don’t make this about men vs wimmin. Make it about being accessable to those who need it.

{standing ovation for intaba}

Also interesting to see that the WCHM hasn’t sought fit to mention the substantial flow-on benefits for women from the NDIS, in particular I am talking about going some way towards alleviating the significant physical and mental health issues affecting primary carers. As the PP mentions, most of us are women.

Like many in the disability sector, I am perplexed as to where the people are going to come from to provide the support that people with disabilities will have the financial means to access. Even for people with funding now, it’s almost impossible to find staff to do the work.

I’m all for the NDIS, sounds great and disabled people really do need support they are not getting at the moment. But for the love of all things unholy why are you trying to genderise this debate? I’m pretty sure being actually disabled and having limited mobility etc would trump any ‘disability’ involved in being a woman. Women have lower social status? In Australia? Really? If you keep telling yourself you have a lower social status it will probably work out to be one of those self-fulfilling prophesies.

And what does this mean? “For example, in the current system services are delivered by organisations funded for disability support whereas under the proposed NDIS, women will able to ‘purchase’ supports from a wider number of services to more holistically meet their needs.” Disabled ‘women’ will be able to ‘purchase’ services? Will disabled men also be able to ‘purchase’ services? What kind of ‘purchases’ will they be making that wouldn’t otherwise be available under disability funding? Is this kind of like ‘purchasing’ that every other person in our economy does?

I’m not sure your list of ‘gendered issues’ are actually exclusive to women, except maybe the primary care giver one, and only because of social stereotyping. Men have sexual needs too (even the disabled ones I’m sure); disabled men would have just as much trouble getting into the workforce – because they are disabled and people can’t be bothered making the effort to engage them in wider society, which in turn lead to poverty, housing problems etc.

You would probably get more support for the NDIS if you made it about disabled people, rather than being outrageously focused on ‘women’ and alienating everyone except the feminazis who think the world of men is out to get them.

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