Car­ers for dis­abled plan protest on PM’s doorstep

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - Adam Cress­well Health ed­i­tor

CAR­ERS are step­ping up pres­sure on both sides of pol­i­tics for a big in­crease in the avail­abil­ity of longterm ac­com­mo­da­tion for peo­ple with se­vere dis­abil­i­ties.

Cam­paign­ers are plan­ning a sec­ond sit-in at John Howard’s cam­paign of­fice in East­wood, part of his Ben­ne­long elec­torate, on Oc­to­ber 17, af­ter a pre­vi­ous one at his Gladesville of­fice last week at­tracted some 60 pro­test­ers.

Ka­t­rina Clark, one of the co-or­di­na­tors of last week’s ac­tion, said while the sub­se­quent an­nounce­ments from Howard and Op­po­si­tion leader Kevin Rudd on im­proved autism ser­vices were wel­come, they did not change the fo­cus of her cam­paign.

‘‘ Autism is a huge is­sue, but it (the Gov­ern­ment’s plan) doesn’t help at all the lack of long-term sup­ported ac­com­mo­da­tion,’’ she told Week­end Health this week.

Howard this week an­nounced a $190 mil­lion five-year pro­gram to tackle autism, com­pris­ing $20 mil­lion for new Medi­care­funded ser­vices to di­ag­nose autism spec­trum disor­ders and pro­vide early-in­ter­ven­tion treat­ment; and $116 mil­lion over five years for new early-in­ter­ven­tion ser­vices, in­clud­ing up to 200 new autism-spe­cific play­groups by 2012 and one-on-one or tai­lored group pro­grams for up to 4000 el­i­gi­ble chil­dren.

The Gov­ern­ment’s plan will also pro­vide $20,000 for el­i­gi­ble ser­vices over two years for 1200 se­verely af­fected chil­dren, and $30 mil­lion over five years for new train­ing and sup­port for par­ents and car­ers to learn in­ter­ven­tion tech­niques.

The La­bor op­po­si­tion was ac­cused of try­ing to hi­jack the Gov­ern­ment’s an­nounce­ment by an­nounc­ing the same morn­ing pro­pos­als for a net­work of six autism cen­tres across the coun­try to as­sist in the pro­vi­sion of in­ten­sive autism-re­lated ser­vices.

Af­ter the first sit-in, Clark — pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­a­tion for Chil­dren with a Dis­abil­ity in NSW — said the is­sue at the cen­tre of the protest was the share of fund­ing pro­vided by the fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to­wards the Com­mon­wealth, State and Ter­ri­tory Dis­abil­ity Agree­ment (CSTDA), un­der which longterm sup­ported ac­com­mo­da­tion was pro­vided.

‘‘ In July this year they recog­nised there’s a cri­sis in ac­com­mo­da­tion,’’ Clark said. ‘‘ But they are only tar­get­ing (dis­abled) peo­ple in the com­mu­nity who are still liv­ing with their par­ents and are over 40. If you’re over 40 your par­ents have prob­a­bly got one foot in the grave. That still leaves a huge gap­ing

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