THE BLOG

The Disabled Shouldn't Be Sacrificed For Budget Repair

Why is the government horse trading the disabled for the jobless like we are Pokemon cards?

28/02/2017 9:39 AM AEDT | Updated 28/02/2017 9:39 AM AEDT
nullplus via Getty Images
"If you are born with a disability, have a child with a disability or acquire a disability there should be a system to support you to live as normal a life as possible."

In matters of public safety, the usual protocol is that women, children, the elderly, sick and disabled are rescued or evacuated first. Not so for the Turnbull Titanic as it careers towards the May budget, desperately trying to stay afloat while crashing into iceberg after iceberg.

If anyone is to be sacrificed in the name of budget repair it will be welfare recipients and the unemployed, then we'll forgo pensioners and we'll make the path impossible for the disabled. Many who are being chased by Centrelink debt collectors will simply jump overboard.

Many 'permanently' disabled people are having to go through the onerous task of again proving that they are disabled.

Meanwhile those climbing into the lifeboats first are the CEOs of Australia's biggest corporations, bankers, mining magnates and property investors. This narrative has been slowly playing out since the federal election in July last year. The past few weeks, however, have got a whole lot uglier especially if you are disabled, as I am, or care for someone with a disability.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was "short of money'' and if the current omnibus bill did not pass through the Senate the Government would have to raise taxes to pay for the scheme.

In short, if Senators want a fully funded NDIS they need to pass legislation to cut family tax benefits and cut unemployment benefits to young people. Horse trading the disabled for the jobless like we are Pokemon cards.

This comes at a time when many thousands of people on the Disability Support Pension (DSP) are currently suffering under the microscope of comprehensive medical reviews to assess their eligibility for the paltry pension, which is about $22,000 a year. Many disabled people are having to go through the onerous task of again proving that they are disabled and can not work more than 15 hours per week.

On the ABC's Q&A program last week, Attorney General George Brandis explained that the DSP reviews were necessary because 'we have to be fair to everyone'. The deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek pointed out that the big four banks will reap $7.9 billion if the proposed $50 billion corporate tax cut is introduced. Fair?

The NDIS is not short of money, the government is short of money. And the story being painted so far is that the disabled community, along with the unemployed, are a drain on the system.

Equally galling has been continued debate on whether the NDIS was or wasn't funded at its inception and speculation from political commentators on where the money for the NDIS would come from. Which begs the question -- do these people actually know what the NDIS is?

The NDIS is not welfare. It is a scheme to ensure people with a permanent and significant disability can live with dignity and enjoy a life that includes independence, community involvement, education and employment.

It also allows recipients (or their carers) to choose who showers them, who helps them get dressed, who provides their medication and who helps them with public transport. Imagine not being able to choose who helps you in the shower?

Funding the NDIS is as vital as funding for roads, hospitals, schools. No politician would ever announce that our schools may close if budget savings weren't passed in the Senate. Do we as a nation honestly want to continue to see children caring for their disabled parents, unable to go to school, because the system won't support them?

I was a 38-year-old working mother of two little boys when I lost my leg. It took five years of constant support from my family and paid contractors to get me to a point where I can take care of most things myself. I didn't drive for nearly three years and in five years I have had six operations and many more hospital stays. I have not been able to return to my previous employment.

Supplied
Ali France: "I was a 38-year-old working mother of two little boys when I lost my leg."

There are many people in similar circumstances, who have paid taxes all their lives, who are now wondering whether they will continue to get a Disability Support Pension while they are recovering from an illness or injury.

There are many other families who are desperate for the NDIS to be rolled out in their area so that they can go back to work themselves in the knowledge that their loved ones are being cared for by someone they have deemed to be trustworthy and with the right experience.

If the government wants disabled people to get jobs it needs to fund schemes that help them to get into a position where they can work. That is one of the reasons why the Productivity Commission recommended the NDIS in the first place.

Most people with a disability who can work want to work, but it is an uphill battle. Australia has one of the poorest employment rates for people with a disability in the developed world, ranking 21 out of 29 OECD nations. Despite the government offering financial support for businesses that do employ people with a disability, we are going backwards.

If the government wants disabled people to get jobs it needs to fund schemes that help them to get into a position where they can work.

The Productivity Commission recently reported workforce participation and social participation rates for people with a disability had fallen by 6 percent since 2009. There is a distinct lack of willingness on behalf of private enterprise or the government to push for change.

Other countries in Europe and Asia enforce mandatory quota systems that force the private and public sector to employ a percentage of individuals with disabilities. If the government were serious about increasing workforce participation for people with disabilities they might consider a mandatory employment quota system for their own government departments.

The narrative needs to change. The NDIS and DSP are why we pay our taxes. If you are born with a disability, have a child with a disability or acquire a disability there should be a system to support you to live as normal a life as possible.

Pinching pennies from the most vulnerable in our community in the name of budget repair, while promising to enhance the bottom line of very wealthy companies in the form of a $50 billion tax break, is not fair.

______________
If you would like to submit a blog to HuffPost Australia, send a 500-800-word post through to blogteam@huffingtonpost.com.au


ALSO ON HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA

More On This Topic