Why Independent Individual Advocacy is Important

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been dubbed one of the greatest social reforms Australia has committed to. It is hoped the NDIS will be the foundation of a truly inclusive and enabling society for people with a disability. A shift away from the old institutional and welfare models of service towards a more individualised model of support centred on the rights based notion of entitlements to services where the individual has more choice and control.

Will people with a disability still need advocacy?

Some have indicated that such are the promises of the NDIS there will be no need for independent advocacy. That the market will resolve all additional issues. A service who is unable to meet individual’s needs, is inflexible, unresponsive, has discriminatory practices, abuses and neglects, oppresses or takes advantage of ‘clients’ will not survive post NDIS as people with a disability will not choose to buy their support from such a service.

This notion works on the assumption that all people with a disability will know what is possible and available within the market, have high expectations and be able to become and be seen as a consumer with bargaining power. For everyone it is challenging at times negotiating a marketplace of any kind. For those with complex and multiple disabilities who have experienced a lifetime of dependency, rights denial and violence within the service system this will be an even greater challenge.

So What Role Does Advocacy Have In This?

Though the NDIS model allows for further individual autonomy and choice a pathway will often still be needed between the service sector and individuals who are looking to access it. Without advocacy to forge this pathway services may remain inaccessible to those who need them and service issues may be remain problematic and left unresolved.

It is hoped if adequately resourced the NDIS will pave the way for greater inclusion and participation for people with a disability in all facets of community and life. But increased resources, autonomy and choice are not enough to address the societal barriers, mistreatment, injustice and discriminatory practices that vulnerable people with a disability face each and every day.

Why is independent individual advocacy important?

SUFY’s advocacy is not just in relation to support and service issues. It addresses the barriers, mistreatment and injustices people with a disability experience in all aspects of their life:

    • Homelessness and housing issues
    • Mistreatment within the health system
    • Woman having their children removed by Child Safety because they have a disability
    • Inadequate representation at Mental Health Review Tribunals or
    • Queensland Civil and Administration Tribunals
    • Inappropriate and illegal use of Restrictive Practices
    • Prolonged years of institutionalisation in nursing homes or health facilities
    • Discrimination
    • Involvement with the criminal justice system either as a victim or an alleged offender

For individuals in these situations the difference between having access to advocacy and not is profound. In these circumstances strong independent advocacy is needed to take up the issues on behalf of the vulnerable person, to represent their needs and interests and to get a better deal in life. It is also hoped by drawing attention to an individual’s mistreatment and injustice larger systemic injustices are also exposed and unacceptable practices are hopefully minimised or discontinued.

For decades people with a disability have experienced discrimination, denial of rights, exclusion and oppression. A change in funding model such as the NDIS will help in shaking things up but it alone will not put an end to this. Therefore the introduction of the NDIS should be viewed as the beginning not as the endpoint in the road of a truly inclusive society where all rights of people with a disability are recognised. The crucial role independent advocacy has in this needs to be acknowledged.