Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Queensland, Australia cuts funding for disabled teens

From Sunshine Coast Daily in Australia:

Disability Services Queensland’s Post School Services funding has been labelled a “slap in the face” after Sunshine Coast families missed out on much-needed funds that would allow their disabled children to grow into independent, valued members of the community.

Families with children who graduated from Sunshine Coast special schools last year, and have been denied Post School Services funding, have had to come up with thousands of dollars so their children can attend vital programs to assist with their development.

Natalie Dix, of Tanawha, and Jude Mannix, of Maleny, have forked out $10,000 and $15,000, respectively, for their children to attend two and three-day-a-week programs at The Compass Institute, a Palmwoods-based centre that provides educational programs to people with disabilities.

Ms Dix’s 18-year-old daughter Emma, who has an intellectual impairment, was denied a funding package

“We want her to carry on learning,” Ms Dix said.

“If you haven’t got the money, it’s too bad, your child will sit at home or go to a social club that’s just like babysitting, but they won’t grow, they’ll probably go backwards more than anything.

“We don’t want that for our kids, we want them to be learning and growing.”

Ms Mannix’s 20-year-old son Levi, who also has an intellectual disability, also missed out on the funding.

Ms Mannix said Levi had been disappointed when told he may not be able to attend Compass, due to the financial strain.

“There’s not many other options, unless I want to be a full-time carer and stay at home and look after Levi five days a week,” Ms Mannix said.

“It’s not good for me and definitely not good for him because he has no social interaction.”

Ms Dix agreed.

“Having to deal with a (disabled) child is quite draining at times, so you need a bit of a break,” she said.

“If you have to care for them 24/7, you might end up in the mental health system.”

Leeane Milne, of Buderim, whose 19-year-old daughter Sara has Down Syndrome, said the lack of an appeal process made it so much worse for those families who missed out. (Both are pictured.)

“I was fortunate, my daughter did get a package, but I got a letter back saying there is no complaint system,” Ms Milne said.

“Once a decision has been made, there are no grounds for appeal,” she said.

The three women agreed other states were better off and said some families had considered moving to Tasmania where there was more funding available.

“New South Wales is putting a lot of money in and Victoria is quite good. Queensland just seems to say ‘sorry, there were too many people who applied, there wasn’t enough money’ so you lose out,” Ms Dix said.

Ms Milne said it was important to realise funding wasn’t given to the parents, but went straight to the disabled child’s needs.

“It’s going to the service providers who’ll educate and support these children to then go on and have a job and be a valued member in the community,” she said.

“It’s about the child and their future, they’re not valued members of the community.

“They talk about inclusive education, it’s not, it’s discrimination.”

Ms Mannix described the application process as “traumatising” and subsequent advice funding would not be granted as “devastating”.

“You’ve got to sit there and go over all the terrible things about your child, when you’ve spent your whole child’s life trying to be positive about the situation and see the good things about what they do, it’s really awful,” she said.

Shadow Minister for Families, Housing and Communities (which includes Disability Services) Ted Malone said it was a situation of “double jeopardy”.

“You’ve virtually got the potential of two incomes or two placements disappearing from the workforce – the potential for a disabled person to actually gain access to some form of paid employment and one of the parents, if they’re working, will have to minimise their work or not work at all,” Mr Malone said.

A Department of Communities spokesperson said funding allocation was based on assessed need and the numbers of young people leaving school in locations across the state each year.

The spokesperson said the State Government had increased funding for Post School Services by 50% in the past five years and in 2010-2011, an extra 74 young people between Redcliffe and Gympie would receive Post School Services funding.

“The State Government is investing a record $42.8 million in Post School Services in 2010-2011, including a $4 million boost announced in the last State Budget,” the spokesperson said.

“This year the program will benefit an extra 294 Queenslanders, reaching a total of 2,900 people across the state.”