letter: disappointment that Government won't meet to discuss autism

6/3/2014

Dear ACT MPs and Senators,

Below is a recent letter to Senator Fifield, Assistant Minister for Social Services, about several disappointing matters ... especially recent developments of the NDIS implementation relating to families affected by autism.

The issues raised are particularly relevant for the ACT as the vast majority of disability services in the ACT will be transferred to the NDIS model in July 2014. Frankly, the situation for people affected by autism is emerging as a shambles. And both the politicians and the bureaucrats won't meet to discuss the issues.

I also have concerns that the Government's own information (see http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4428.0main+features62009 and http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4428.0main+features72009) shows people with autism have far worse outcomes that people with disability generally. We cannot see that the Government has recognised that outcomes for people with autism are far worse than they need to be. We believe the Government, to achieve bipartisan goals for greater equality for people with a disability (including people with autism), needs to act to improve outcomes for people with autism. The data above shows clearly that generic (sometimes called "specialist") disability services do not deliver equitable outcomes for people with autism. The specific needs of people with autism need to be addressed. As yet, this Government has no discernible plan to recognise these abysmal outcomes or to improve outcomes in the future. The main plan seems to be to shut down as much of the ABS as possible so crucial information needed for planning and assessing progress is no longer available.

I notice various members of the Government shot their mouths off about Disability Support Pension (DSP) (see http://a4.org.au/node/790). I have now received a response to my Freedom of Information request that shows Senator/Minister Abetz did not ask officials in his department, he did not seek an official opinion on growth in the DSP. Despite our concerns and warnings, and all the past experience (see http://a4.org.au/node/742 and http://a4.org.au/node/779), this Government decided to vilify and utterly demoralise some of our most vulnerable citizens. Is this appropriate? Can Government really run effectively without getting the "official" position on matters like DSP growth?

It seems this Government transferred responsibility for disability employment from the Department of Employment to the Department of Social Security (DSS). I would be interested to know what resources were transferred along with that responsibility. If there are no resources attached to or associated with disability employment, that would help account for the abysmal results/outcomes observed in this country's disability employment outcomes. Maybe you could find out what resources were transferred, or are involved? And was anyone in the relevant community consulted about this transfer? Who regards it as appropriate for DSS to be responsible for employment? And how "inclusive" is this decision?

Your help and/or support in bringing these matters to the attention of relevant members of the Government would be greatly appreciated.

regards
Bob Buckley

"Tough love" is just the right phrase: love for the rich and privileged, tough for everyone else. Noam Chomsky (1996), Powers and Prospects

-------- Original Message --------

Subject: surely, it is time to meet about autism and the NDIS
Date: Thu, 06 Mar 2014 15:05:30 +1100
From: Bob Buckley (A4 Convenor) <cnvnr@a4.org.au>
Organisation: Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (A4)
To: senator.fifield@aph.gov.au

 

Dear Senator Fifield

Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (A4) has not received an acknowledgement of, let alone a reply to, the meeting request sent on 12th November 2013 (see http://a4.org.au/node/757). Your refusal to meet with A4 deeply disappoints people whose lives are affected by autism.

The NDIS published/released Operational Guidelines (see http://www.ndis.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/og_access_disability_requirements3.pdf) that are unworkable in relation to autism spectrum disorder (see pages 7 and 9). The Operational Guidelines relating to autism was clearly developed by people who have little or no working knowledge of autism. This shows people with knowledge and experience of the autism spectrum are excluded from policy and planning for the NDIS. The material in the guidelines shows clearly that the NDIA did not even consult with relevant people in the same Government Department, let alone people with expert knowledge of autism spectrum disorder.

The “information” that the NDIS provides for families of young children with autism about the transition from the existing Helping Children with Autism package to the NDIS (see http://www.ndis.gov.au/document/651) is spectacularly unhelpful. It fails to address all the key issues.

We cannot discern any Government plans for the Autism Advisor service that is part of the current Helping Children with Autism package; a significant and valuable service for people affected by autism that was created in 2007 by the Howard Government. Immediate action is needed or this service will soon cease in South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory ...and valuable knowledge and skills will quickly dissipate.

The initial reporting on the NDIS (see http://www.ndis.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/quarterly_report2.3.pdf) does not indicate that anyone with autism has been included in the NDIS so far. Reports I received from people at the NDIS launch sites say that people with autism met with individual planners who have no knowledge, experience, training, empathy or sympathy relevant to autism. These people have indicated that the current NDIS process is difficult, if not impossible, for people with autism. While there are a few claims of success, this is a less than auspicious start for the NDIS in relation to people affected by autism.

Surely, it is time to meet about autism and the NDIS.

Yours sincerely

--
Bob Buckley
Convenor, Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (A4)
website: http://a4.org.au/

A4 is the national grassroots organisation advocating for people with autism spectrum disorder, their families, carers and associates. A4 is an internet based organisation so that members across the country can participate equally.

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