Open Letter to Minister Williams
Dear Minister Williams,
Today is the first day of Parliament for 2017 and you will commence in your new role as Minister of Disability Services. This is a very important position as you are now responsible for defending and upholding the human rights of all people with intellectual disability in NSW.
The NSW Council for Intellectual Disability (NSW CID) asks that you make a commitment to listen to people with an intellectual disability. Really listen and take the time to do this.
Today you will also be met with protestors outside Parliament, angry about the way the NSW Government is undertaking the transfer of disability services to the non government sector and concerned about the quality of care that people with disability will receive in the future.
NSW CID too is concerned about the limit of choice and control people with disability have had in this process and the risks to people’s lives that are emerging as the transfer progresses. We are also concerned about the future of critical services such as the Community Justice Program, therapy services and health supports. Positive leadership on this issue will be vital.
We ask that in your new role you place a high priority on issues which are of great concern to people with an intellectual disability in NSW.
Of key concern is the high number of preventable deaths for people with intellectual disability. Last week a landmark study was released that showed 38% of deaths of people with intellectual disability in NSW were potentially preventable. NSW CID is spearheading a call for action on this issue with improvements to health care services.
There is also the implementation of the NDIS, which, whilst presenting challenges, also promises better quality support, more choice and an improved life which are goals we are all working towards.
The NSW Government’s commitment to a more inclusive NSW, through the implementation of the NSW Disability Inclusion Bill, is also a progressive policy that we want to ensure will have widespread and lasting impact.
There are also few employment opportunities for people with intellectual disability, with only 11% of people being in open employment.
In addition, our school system struggles to provide an adequate education for students with special needs; teachers need more support and more training and the specialist needs of children with intellectual disability need to be fully addressed.
It is unacceptable to see people with intellectual disability over represented in the justice system, with 13% of the NSW prison population having an intellectual disability.
And isolation is also a critical issue for many people with intellectual disability. As our Chairperson, Michael Sullivan, a man living with intellectual disability says, “I want to be part of the community, not just walk through it”.
We can assure you that there are ways forward and opportunities to make progress and you will receive much advice in the next few months as you begin to meet the sector and its various stakeholders.
NSW CID warmly invites you to work alongside people with intellectual disability and NSW CID to find the solutions that will make a difference. We are the people you serve, we know best what works and what does not in our lives.
We will not always agree, but please know that we will always fiercely represent people with intellectual disability, as we have done for more than 60 years.
We look forward to building a more inclusive NSW with you.
The Members of NSW CID