Submission to the New South Wales Legislative Council Inquiry into the provision of education to students with a disability or special needs in government and non-government schools in New South Wales.
The terms of reference for this inquiry refer to a number of areas where students with a disability might experience inequality, such as those living in rural and regional NSW. Family Advocacy proposes two other key issues to the committee. These are, firstly, the organisation of schools into separate settings and pathways for children with disability and typical children, and secondly, the continued practice of encouraging parents to enrol their children with disabilities into special schools or support classes.
Education remains one of the most significant concerns students with disability and families routinely contend with. A typical education experience for students with disability involves discrimination, inadequate funding and resources, insufficient expertise of staff, a systemic culture of low expectations, exclusion and bullying. There are increasing incidents of restraint and seclusion reported to Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA), which are seen as a clear consequence of a system in crisis.
CYDA recognises the importance of having meaningful data which informs the community of education experiences of students with disability. However, CYDA has significant concerns about the proposal being considered by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) in its present form. The proposal to provide data on the number of students with disability, level of reported adjustment and ‘disability type’ of students in each school alone is viewed as extremely problematic. Further, CYDA has considerable concerns regarding the quality and process of the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD) in its current form as discussed further in this submission.
The proposed data provision in isolation would not provide information regarding the quality of education provision for students with disability or anything meaningful to the broader community. Further, CYDA is of the view that this initiative, as proposed, could potentially entrench the common barriers students with disability face in accessing education.
CYDA strongly supports the strengthening of the collection and use of data in relation to educational experiences of students with disability however this must be meaningful. This submission includes discussion of an ‘inclusion index’ as a mechanism to improve information available about schools in relation to students with disability and improve transparency and accountability for learning outcomes of this cohort.
The current models of advocacy funded by the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP) include family advocacy with good reason. Family advocacy is a model that empowers family members to be advocates for their family member, promotes and protects the rights, interests and needs of the person with disability, and encourages lives full of potential. However, currently Family Advocacy support is only widely available in NSW. We would love to see our model and organisation improving the lives of people with disability across Australia.
The focus of our submission is on the impact of the NDAP on people with disability and their families’ capacity to advocate on their behalf.
For the past 25 years, Family Advocacy has made it our priority to share stories, resources and support for families to advocate for their children, and also to make the inclusive journey easier for families by making change systemically.
"Family Advocacy has a vision of an inclusive society, and that means inclusive housing, too…This is a view that many people around the world share. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disability supports “the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others..."
Family Advocacy is concerned about the direction of the Framework with regard to choice and control for people with high support needs. We consider that some of the statements in the Framework are based on negative assumptions about the capacities and potential of people with complex needs.
Family Advocacy strongly recommends that the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) look to the Supported Living Fund (SLF) and parent-founded Community Housing Provider Homes West in Brisbane for an indication of just how successful and cost effective informal supports and independent living can be. However, it requires a willingness to provide some funding support for housing to people who want to develop such supports and independence.”
The Federal Senate is conducting an inquiry into the current levels of attainment and access for students with disability in the school system. Family Advocacy’s submission emphasises that any future policy should support full inclusion and be committed to ending segregation of children with disability.
We provide the research evidence for full inclusion, which demonstrates that inclusion results in better academic and social outcomes for kids with disabilities, and has positive effects for classmates and teachers. The submission also details multiple case studies of inclusion and the elements needed for inclusive education.
Our submission particularly emphasises the work that we undertake with families which enables them to speak up for and pursue a meaningful, included life for their son, daughter or sibling, so that people with disability can enjoy the same environment, lifestyle and living conditions as the majority of Australians. This will remain important no matter the funding system, as while the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) presents opportunities, people with disability will continue to face vulnerabilities, congregation, and lower expectations.
The intention of the review is for Governments to use the Framework to promote greater consistency across advocacy programmes and ensure the rights of people with disability are upheld. It will also help to describe how advocacy will be provided in the NDIS environment.
You can find out more information by visiting National Disability Advocacy Program
Family Advocacy response to NSW Disability Inclusion Plan Discussion Paper
Family Advocacy submission to consultation on National Disability Insurance Agency quality and safeguards framework
Family Advocacy submission to 2015 Review of Disability Standards in Education
Family Advocacy submission on affordable housing 2014
Family Advocacy submission to Legislative Council Social Public and Affordable Housing Committee
Family Advocacy submission to the Reference Group on Welfare Reform 2014