Monday, February 19, 2018
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Accommodation and forced cohabitation


Commitments sought:

  1. Recognise that institutionalisation is not only large congregate models of support, but rather any model of support that obliges a person to live in an arrangement in order to get the disability supports they need. This includes group housing where people live together for functional purposes;

  2. Cease funding or supporting any new proposals for models of support which involve the functional placements of people with disabilities, where they are obliged to live in particular arrangements in order to get the disability supports they need, in line with the expectations of Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;

  3. Commitment to develop and implement a human rights audit process for all accommodation proposals, including respite facilities, to ensure that they are compliant with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Article 19;

  4. Commit to developing a 10 year housing stock plan for people with disabilities, prioritising people with disabilities exiting institutional models of support (including group homes) in response to the planned impacts of the NDIS and individualised models of support.

What is currently being done?


Disability led responses

-       None

Disability specialist responses

-       None

Mainstream responses

-       None


Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) states that people with disabilities have the right to live where and with whom they choose on an equal basis to the general community, and to access adequate community based supports to achieve this.

The Shut In campaign defines an institutional setting as any place a person with disability has to live in order to get the disability supports they need[1].  Whilst the remaining large institutions across Australia are for the most part actively being phased out, the process is far from complete, with the majority of people moved into other institutional settings such as boarding houses, nursing homes and group homes[2].

There is a lack of understanding about the ways that institutional practices are being carried over into smaller scale settings located in the community such as group homes.[3] This includes in group homes run by disability service providers, which are considered the modern alternative to larger facilities. New respite houses are being built in the ACT, despite the opportunities brought by the NDIS to develop innovative, inclusive models of respite support for people with disabilities in the general community.[4]

The ACT Government has publicly supported several new projects in the last three years which feature forced cohabitation or congregate care models. People with disabilities are required to live in these arrangements in order to receive the supports that they require.

Advocacy for Inclusion seeks a commitment from all parties to cease endorsing, or supporting with funds or land grants, any new proposals for congregate living or forced cohabitation. These models cause great distress for people with disabilities and result in greater risk of violence and sexual assault.[5] [6] Advocacy for Inclusion responds to a large number of requests for advocacy support each year where people in congregate settings are not safe in their own homes and wish to be moved.

Despite the introduction of the NDIS, which has created high hopes for finally completing the deinstitutionalisation that began in the 1960s, people with disabilities are still being cornered into living in institutional settings. Advocacy for Inclusion is currently working on cases where NDIS participants are being pressured by the NDIA to cohabit with another person with disability. People who are currently living alone and have fought hard to live alone; yet, the NDIA is insisting that a person with disability should live with another person with disability as this is more “inclusive” and provides “companionship”.

This indicates that we still have a long way to go in terms of achieving deinstitutionalisation in its true form. Inclusion means genuine access to and participation in the community on an equal basis with non-disabled people. It means having access to accommodation options on an equal basis to the non-disabled community. This is a fundamental human right. Companionship involves freely given relationships with family, friends and other community members, and perhaps mutually chosen housemates. Real companionship cannot be forced onto people – it is something that evolves organically.

Inclusion and companionship does not mean being pressured into a permanent living arrangement with a stranger with disability against your will, based on an extremely outdated and oppressive assumption that if you’re a person with disability, you are better off being grouped together with other disabled people to live, work or be educated.  With the control and choice principles underpinning the NDIS, it is concerning that NDIA representatives are yet to grasp basic human rights concepts and translate those to practice in the planning process. This is a hugely concerning issue, which the ACT Government must address.

[2] Drake, G. (2014). The transinstitutionalisation of people living in licensed boarding houses in Sydney. Australian Social Work, 67(2), 240-255.

[3] Marsland, D., Oakes, P., White, C. (2007). Abuse in care? The identification of early indicators of the abuse of people with learning difficulties in residential settings. The Journal of Adult Protection, 9(4), 6-20.

[5] Chenoweth, L. (1995). The mask of benevolence: Cultures of violence and people with disabilities. Journal of Australian Studies, 19(43), 36-44.

[6] Hollomotz, A. (2011). Learning difficulties and sexual vulnerability: A social approach. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.