Inquiry into social inclusion
Last month the Victorian Government tabled its response to the Inquiry into Social Inclusion and Victorians with Disability. The inquiry was undertaken last year by the Committee for Family and Community Development. This is made up of members of the Victorian Parliament. In September 2014, the committee released its report and made 25 recommendations.
The government says that these recommendations will help to inform the State Disability Plan 2017-2020. This new plan will be developed in partnership with the disability sector, together with people with disabilities and their families. It will consider what is needed to increase the economic and social participation of people with disabilities in the community. It will also include ideas for responding to future challenges, including the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Defining social inclusion
Social inclusion is an important issue for people with disabilities. We need to engage effectively in society and to feel valued in doing so. Nevertheless, many people with disabilities continue to experience isolation and discrimination, and have difficulty accessing basic requirements. This can affect our ability to pursue our goals and ambitions. Martin Foley is the Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing. He observes that “Every day, people with a disability still face significant barriers to employment, education, housing and civic participation.” Encouragingly, he also adds: “We must dismantle these barriers.”
One of the tasks of the inquiry was to decide on a definition for social inclusion. The committee determined that social inclusion means people with disability will:
- “experience respect for their differences, their aspirations and their right to have control over their own lives
- have opportunities to contribute and participate in society in a meaningful way and feel valued
- experience significant and reciprocal relationships
- have appropriate supports, where necessary.”
Recommendations for improving social inclusion
Adopting this definition of social inclusion is the first of the 25 recommendations in the report. Many others relate to reviewing or improving future State Disability Plans, but some encourage the development of specific strategies. One of these strategies aims to strengthen relationships and networks for people with disability. Another is about improving the accessibility of buildings. A further strategy aspires to get more people with disabilities into elected office. Then there is one that seeks to improve attitudes towards people with disabilities in the general community.
Planning to reach full potential
All of these ideas are admirable and some may even make a difference. This is especially the case if the recommendations do make their way into the State Disability Plan 2017-2020. The goal of the plan is to create an inclusive society in which people with disabilities are considered equally. It does this through addressing barriers to mainstream services like information, transport and education. These issues are considered at the level of state government and policies are developed from them. Martin Foley says: “The Andrews Labor Government will work with the community to ensure that the next State Disability Plan reflects the aspirations of all Victorians with a disability to reach their full potential.” Here’s hoping they do just that.
The report of the Inquiry into Social Inclusion and Victorians with Disability, along with the Government’s response can be found at http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/fcdc/article/2180.