The National Disability Insurance Scheme (or the NDIS as it was formerly known) in Australia has quietly undergone a name change. It’s now to be referred to as Disability Care Australia. So what’s in a name, you may well ask? Well for one thing the use of the term ‘Disability Care’ goes against everything that proponents of NDIS once claimed they stood for.
Namely achieving greater levels of independence for those with disabilities in order to better enable them to choose their own service providers and decide for themselves which types of services were most appropriate for their needs.
The objective was to provide those with disabilities with greater independence so I’m not sure how the use of the term “care’ in this instance is being justified, as it implies the exact opposite of independence for many.
The term “care” is an extremely loaded term within disability circles as the ABC’s Stella Young reports.
Disability Care: a bad name but a good direction?
“The NDIS will now be known as Disability Care. It’s a terrible name, but at least we are now on the path to providing better services for Australians with disabilities, writes Stella Young.
In a week where legislation for the biggest social reform in generations passed through Parliament, there should have been great applause.
People with disabilities, along with many allies, have been fighting for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for a long time. Indeed, there is much cause for celebration.
So why does it seem there’s more face-palm than applause?
I’d hazard a guess it’s because of the dreadful name. I’ll forgive you if you haven’t heard it. After all, the announcement that the NDIS would now be known as Disability Care Australia was made very quietly by Minister for Disability Reform Jenny Macklin at an event celebrating National Playgroups Week.
Minister Macklin said “The name has been chosen based on consultations with people with disability, their families and carers, peak organisations and the general public.
“Disability Care Australia reflects the principles of the NDIS – that all Australians with significant or profound disability receive the care and support they need regardless of how they acquired that disability.”
Presumably, the re-branding of the NDIS as Disability Care is also an attempt to link the reform to Medicare; to cement the scheme in the minds of the public as existing, like other social services, for all Australians. Unfortunately, the term ‘care’ has a much more loaded history when it comes to disability.
Lesley Hall, head of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) says that her organisation was one of those consulted and that AFDO strongly advised the Government against using the word ‘care’ in the name.
“The name of the NDIS should reflect what the scheme is trying to achieve – empowering people with disability to be equal with
all other Australians,” Ms Hall said.
“Using the word ‘care’ perpetuates the myth that people with disability are passive and in need of help. It is support people want – not charity, not welfare.”
Despite several attempts, I’ve been unable to find an individual or organisation who was a part of seemingly low-key government
consultation, and who likes the name. Indeed, the name was heavily criticised on a forum discussing the NDIS. This forum was later removed, but the comments still exist in Google’s cache.
We are no strangers to terrible names for things in the disability sector. Two years in a row the campaign for the NDIS, Every Australian Counts, has run so-called awareness-raising DisabiliTEA events. Yes, you read that correctly. Disability, but with cups of TEA. Get it? It’s all terribly cute while doing approximately nothing to address the paternalistic attitudes we fight so hard against.
We’ve tolerated this condescending language in the disability sector for a long time now, so perhaps we’re all partly to blame for Disability Care. We haven’t been talking about rights enough.
While in the UK last year, I noticed how differently disability is spoken about. Folks over there tend not to talk about ‘care’, ‘tolerance’ and ‘support’. They speak of ‘independent living’, ‘equality’ and ‘access’. And the strength of their movement makes it clear that they mean business. By contrast, we’re
It’s hardly surprising that Disability Care was the best the Government could come up with. We’re so used to framing people
with disabilities in terms of how we impact on non-disabled people (you know, the carers), that it would have simply been a bridge too far to hope for anything else.
Personally, I hate the name. I think it’s paternalistic, charity-model, carer-centric rubbish that does very little to empower people with disabilities to exercise the choice and control over our lives that the NDIS is intended to give us.
But, you know what I hate more than crappy names for things? Crappy services. People living with crappy mobility aids that keep them house-bound. People not having access to education, to employment, to their communities. I hate that there have been people living for decades without the support they need to live rich, full lives and participate in the cultural and economic life of Australia.
I hate the fact that Australia ranks last among the OECD nations for quality of life of people with disabilities; that we’re more than
twice as likely as those without disabilities to live near or below the poverty line; that our workforce participation rates are half that of
people without disabilities.
So, yes, I hate the name.
But I hate inequality more.
In all this commotion about a bad name, we’ve lost sight of what really happened this week. And that was something good.
This week, the National Disability Insurance Scheme became law.
We still have much to work on, and many people still have concerns about how the NDIS (oh sorry, I mean Disability Care) will take shape.
What took place in Parliament this week is historic. It will dramatically change the game for future generations of Australians with disabilities. We can now look to a future where Australians with disabilities can aspire to live rich, full lives.
We can start proving that we are not passive objects of pity and recipients of care, but equal members of society deserving of rights and respect.
Once we’ve changed the game, then we can change the name.”
Stella Young is the editor of ABC’s Ramp Up website