Siblings of the disabled appeal for recognition
From Health cover ments should give us all our funding, we would be happy to accept money from corporations or other sources,’’ she said.
‘‘ The problem is that the first thing business says is ‘ where is your funding coming from?’. If you don’t have government support, they’re not interested.’’
Elizabeth Bradford was one of the first people to take advantage of the services of Siblings Australia eight years ago. At the time, she was eight years old and having problems coping with her older brother William’s autism, and the reactions of her peers.
She admitted to having had a mix of sadness, frustration and anger at her brother’s situation and the effect on her family, coupled with feelings of guilt, disloyalty and even depression.
‘‘ When I was younger, in primary school . . . I had gone through the whole ‘ he’s not my brother, I’m not related to him, I don’t want to be associated with him, because at school I’ll be teased’. I felt really, really guilty,’’ Bradford said.
‘‘ I needed someone who could understand me and what it’s like to live with someone who doesn’t run around and be silly and talk and grab attention like a normal kid. It was good to spend time with an organisation that had other kids my age that understood that. I would hate Siblings Australia to close — you have all these organisations for kids who are autistic, and the carers’ association for parents, but this is the only Australia-wide siblings’ association that deals with kids.’’
Jon Jureidini, the head of psychological medicine at the Womens and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, was cited by Strohm in her letter to the PM this week.
Jureidini said the level of available help for children with disabilities and their carers or parents was explained by the fact that their needs were visible and clearly understood by the community. ‘‘( But) the needs of siblings often disappear from public view without an organisation to advocate and publicise the issue,’’ he said, praising Siblings Australia for its work.
He said the costs of treating siblings’ depression and other health issues were extensive, adding that every sibling who was assisted would lead to ‘‘ tens of thousands of dollars in benefits’’ to governments.
Jureidini said one of the problems was the debate whether responsibility for siblings should come under the health or mental health portfolios, making it more difficult to achieve ongoing support. ‘‘ It’s critical that governments ensure there is a securelyfunded organisation to help siblings, whether it is Siblings Australia or another group,’’ he said. ‘‘ In reality, only the federal Government can make this happen.’’
Support is crucial: Elizabeth Bradford, whose brother is autistic, turned to Siblings Australia for help