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The State Disability Plan: reality or rhetoric?

By Peter Gibilisco - posted Thursday, 19 January 2012

The State Disability Plan 2002-2012

In its original formulation the State Disability Plan reflected the neoliberal ideology in its attempt to promote social inclusion for people with severe physical disabilities.

Key elements of this plan include:


This State Disability Plan outlines a new approach to disability that is based on fundamental principles of human rights and social justice (the way forward).The Principle of Dignity and Self-Determination (choice) is about respecting and valuing the knowledge, abilities and experiences that people .0with a disability possess, supporting them to make choices about their lives, and enabling each person to live the life they want to live (guiding principles).The Victorian Government wants disability supports to focus on supporting people with a disability in flexible ways, based on their individual needs, so that each person strategies that it puts into place. This will ensure that real progress is made towards achieving the Government's vision over the next ten years (next steps).

However, it is my experience that the State Disability Plan has had little positive effect upon the way support services are delivered for people with severe physical disabilities. Indeed, the practical implementation of the theoretical principles outlined in the State Disability Plan has in not a few cases caused confusion and may even have developed new forms of exclusion in these support services for those being served, their families and support workers. Considerable anxiety and frustration arises in everyday life when such support services are needed.

Social Dilemmas

In my personal reflection, I feel there is a need to introduce a political concept of "social dilemma" into public policy discussion. This has been expanded in a previous raised OLO article.

In a nutshell, Leon Felkins puts the dilemma like this:

Specifically, if government is invoked to solve the social dilemma, then government, being a public good itself, provides a new social dilemma possibly much worse than the original!


This outlines the theoretical problem we need to reflect upon when formal disability policy is developed by service providers who may have loads of good will to say what should be done but can not deliver on what they promise by what can be done with the resources at hand. This is furthered by governments attempting to cover up such dilemmas in disability policy, by excusing goverment office bearers from responsibility by appealing to one over-riding (social dilemma) which then leads to the creations of further dilemmas for those to be served which makes a situation far worse than what was previously experienced.

The "overriding" dilemma that has been created to excuse government from its responsibility is constructed in this way: how does government provide for the necessary increase in service provision when it is committed to an overall decrease in public support for social services?

A pragmatic approach would dodge such problems by insisting that governments need to focus upon providing a straight forward approach to social policy. The recent government approach to reform is to an overall reduction in size, which cannot decrease but only increase the dilemmas that arise in social policy.

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Special thanks to the man Bruce Wearne.

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About the Author

Peter Gibilisco was diagnosed with the progressive neurological condition called Friedreich's Ataxia, at age 14. The disability has made his life painful and challenging. He rocks the boat substantially in the formation of needed attributes to succeed in life. For example, he successfully completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne, this was achieved late into the disability's progression. However, he still performs research with the university, as an honorary fellow. Please read about his new book The Politics of Disability.

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