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The right to live independently (article 19)

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Recent submission to the call for comments on the draft General Comment on the right of persons with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community (Article 19)

 

Advocacy for Inclusion advocates for people with disabilities to have control over their own lives, as reflected in Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This week, we have responded to the call to reflect on the draft General Comment on Article 19.

In 2014, the CRPD Committee decided to prepare a draft General Comment on Article 19 of the Convention. The Committee considered that it was important to clarify the content of this article given that in its consideration of States parties’ reports, the Committee had identified gaps in putting into practice in areas globally and, to a certain extent, misconceptions about the right of persons with disabilities to choose their place of residence and where and with whom to live; the right of persons with disabilities to in-home, residential and community support services; and the right to community services and facilities available on an equal basis with the general population and which are responsive to the requirements of persons with disabilities.

Advocacy for Inclusion consistently campaigns against institutionalisation in our submissions, particularly in areas of forced co-tenancy arrangements and group living. Advocacy for Inclusion has seen examples of forced co-tenancy where a person with disability must live in a group home with another person or several with disability in order to receive supports and where a person must ‘agree’ to another person moving into their home so support can be shared.

Those in the mainstream community appear genuinely confused, while building companies and government department scratch their heads thinking they have got it ‘right’ with their contemporary and ‘modern’ ideas of what it means to live independently as a person with a disability. They groan inside when we, as advocates, argue that squashing tenants together unwillingly to share supports and cut the costs, create little villas, health care facilities and spacious group homes, will effectively solve the issue.

Forced co-tenancy means Article 19 is not met as an individual human right as the quality of support is diminished and the tenant loses the right to make important lifestyle choices, including who they share their home with and to what capacity.

We argued in a previous blog post that the issue is not about ‘inclusion’ or ‘companionship’ but about the effectiveness of pooling and saving money; that is, cost cutting. When two or more people with disabilities are accommodated together and share their supports, they generally require a smaller funding package each as it can be pooled and the support workers shared. The pre-NDIS block funding model forced people into these arrangements, because the funding was attached to service providers rather than to individuals, and there was significantly less funding available in general for disability supports. The NDIS is meant to revolutionise this not pour funding into holding up the old broken system, which left people with disabilities excluded, marginalised and at risk of harm.

Advocacy for Inclusion is beginning to see a rise in accommodation and housing advocacy needs where this issue is now becoming frequent under the NDIS where co-tenancy is favoured and is often pressured. Why? Cost-cutting, of course! Australia’s obligation as a State Party to uphold the recommendations and purpose of Article 19 is argued to be flawed – are we meeting our obligations? We are trying, but we have a long way to go to ensure that people with disabilities live FULLY integrated into the community and are involved in the decisions made about their own living arrangements.

Check out our submission here in Word or PDF format: http://bit.ly/2uAdEgR

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