Striving for Dignity

Every Christmas all 12-year-old Taylah Neagle wants is for her younger brother to talk.

Her brother Mitchell has autism. He’s been luck. His parents have so far been able to afford access to services including paying more than $100,000 over two years for specialised education.

Taylah got her wish; Mitchell can now talk. Despite his disability he can engage with people, and his father Rick Neagle says the costs have been worth it.

But without Government subsidies most people can’t begin to afford the vital but expensive services.

“It’s hard for other people to understand,” Mr Neagle said.

“Disability is out of sight out of mind. It’s not a vote winner.”

But as the spokesperson for Dignity for Disability, Mr Neagle wants change. He said South Australians with disabilities are being denied services and quality of life that should be their right.

Children with disabilities like autism are unable to attend most schools due to lack of funding and services, forcing some into home schooling and others into costly private education.

D4D began six weeks before the last state election, polling more than 10,000 votes in the upper house. D4D also supports preserving Glenside and increasing mental health services and increasing the carers’ allowance.

The party is sick of the way people with disabilities including physical and intellectual disabilities, autism and mental health have been treated by the State Government.

The state’s legislation on disability does not meet the United Nations standards for the right for people with disabilities.

D4D, along with the Liberals, Independents, Greens and Family First, are pushing to re-write the state’s Disability Act so it reflects the UN convention.

Traditionally these minority groups looked to Labor for support, but they say under the Rann Government their quality of life has deteriorated.

“Parents live in fear of what will happen to their disabled adult children when they die,” Mr Neagle said.

A recent national report found that although Government funded disability services had the highest growth in demand, funding per user dropped by 16 per cent over the four years to 2008.

Mr Neagle said demand in SA had outgrown funding and more people are forced to wait for services while their desperate needs are often unmet.

“People are too scared to speak out,” Mr Neagle said. “Any current funding would be removed if they do. It happens.”

D4D has formed an affiliation with other fringe parties, including the Community Voice Coalition, and said despite supporting the Opposition’s election promises including a specialised autism school, it is reluctant to trust either major party.

“Every opposition and government puts up better plans and policies, which is what they’ve done. We’ll have to wait and see whether they act,” Mr Neagle said.

Mr Neagle is running for Norwood “to harass the Mental Health and Education Minister.”

Garry Connor is running for Wright against Disability Minister Jennifer Rankine and Sam Paior in Adelaide against Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith.

D4D president Paul Collier will run for the Legislative Council. In a wheelchair, Mr Collier wants basic human rights for disabled people like himself.

“They tell me when I can have a shower,” Mr Collier said. “I have no say and it’s never on a weekend when it would be more expensive.”

D4D wants to cut paperwork and administration staff, which accounts for a third of the state’s disability funding, and focus on individualised care.

The UN rights and systems in the UK promote and individualised funding base where people and their families can choose what is best for them.

“I lived in the UK for six years and they look at people’s needs as a right,” Mr Collier said. “I came back to South Australia and felt like stepping into the dark ages.”

Dignity through choice is D4D’s slogan and it’s hoping that the next State Government delivers just that.