An increasing number of people living with a disability are at risk of being moved out of individualised arrangements and into group homes due to a cut in funding by the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
This is a major concern, as it's our view - as well as the view of the NDIS and major advocacy groups - that group homes are an unsuitable, and often a dangerous option for most people.
For the uninitiated, individualised support is the ability of someone to live how they choose to live - in their own home - with the supports they need to enable a fulfilling quality of life.
It is a fundamental right of everyone to have the autonomy to decide how they want to live.
We all deserve to live our best lives. People with disability have the right to live a good life and choose how they live it.
The Royal Commission into Disability Abuse and Neglect highlighted, with strong evidence, that group living options increased the risk of abuse and neglect.
In my personal experience, I've never seen a group home that effectively services the needs of the people who live there.
On the other hand, individualised living has demonstrated its effectiveness and value time and time again:
- Identity: An ability to design the way we live is essential to our identity. Think about where you live right now - it is an extension of you and the people you live with, designed so you can live as well as you possibly can. Everyone should have that choice.
- Safety: When someone is in their own home, they can build a sense of not only physical but social and emotional safety around them. We have the confidence and choice to be ourselves.
- Quality of life: A common misconception is people living with disability are a drain on society, but what we've seen repeatedly with individualised living is with the right support, people can contribute, as citizens. We've seen individualised living completely turn lives around more times than we can count - it can be a place people can launch from to lead fulfilling lives.
- Community: Choosing who you live with is as important as choosing where you live. The emotional benefits of having friends, family and support around them are hugely significant.
Not only is the short-term reduction of funding alarming, it's also short-sighted on an economical level.
Individualised living is more suitable for the community at large in the long term, as well as a better solution for the wellbeing of the people living in it.
It's true that this may not be commonly understood within the community yet, as many myths still exist around people with disability living in their own homes.
Take for example the idea that living in your own home means you must be capable of doing everything or most things yourself.
Just like one might get a professional cleaner or tradesperson to help them with the things they can't do themselves, people with disability receive assistance from support workers.
Another myth commonly perpetuated is that people on their own will be lonely.
Like anyone else, people living with disability have rewarding friendships, romantic relationships and a sense of community.
Like anyone else, people living with disability have rewarding friendships, romantic relationships and a sense of community. Living in their own home means they can create and conduct those relationships on their own terms.
Living in their own home means they can create and conduct those relationships on their own terms, rather than being forced into social interactions they haven't asked for.
It all comes back to the issue of choice.
Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities says that 'people with disability have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others.'
It's that element of choice that many people in Australia are currently at risk of losing.
The NDIS is a large, bureaucratic system to navigate.
It is critical that it is effective and functional for everyone, not just those with the time, means and capability to challenge decisions that don't make sense.
Fundamentally, we need to remember that everyone affected by these decisions are unique human beings, not statistics or templates.
Ensuring people have support specifically designed for them is crucial for everyone.
- Leanne Pearman is co-CEO of Western Australia's Individualised Services.