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Friday, 9 July 2010

Direct funding success story

New helping hand for those with disabilities

Sydney Morning Herald, July 5, 2010

When Clare Hooper left high school, she attended a special community centre to learn life skills and go on group excursions. As a person with intellectual disabilities and schizophrenia, she was given little choice. The government-funded centre offered her two days of activities with 30 others. And as her mother, Helen, remembers, Ms Hooper was ''bored and unfulfilled''.

Now the 23-year-old lives in her own flat and pursues her passions - painting and drawing - helped by an inspiring teacher, Robyn Chadwick. She has twice won North Sydney Council's annual art prize for people with disabilities.

Ms Hooper is happier and more confident, her mother says, thanks to a new way of funding the needs of people with disabilities - funding families instead of organisations.

''The government gives us $20,000 a year and we have spent it on weekly art lessons, a personal trainer, WeightWatchers, and a support worker when Clare gets casual jobs, '' says Mrs Hooper.

Her daughter, who once rarely left the parental home, now ''walks around the community with her head high''.

A new study, funded by the federal government, reveals as unfounded the qualms many hold about individual funding. ''People don't waste it on gambling,'' says the lead researcher, Karen Fisher, an associate professor in the Social Policy Research Centre, at the University of NSW. ''Families are highly responsible and use the money most judiciously.''

Click here for the online article and to see Brendan Esposito's photographs published with it.

The study commissioned by the Australian Government's Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs  is:

Occasional Paper no. 29
Effectiveness of individual funding approaches for disability support
by Karen Fisher, Ryan Gleeson, Robyn Edwards, Christiane Purcal, Tomasz Sitek, Brooker Dinning, Carmel Laragy, Lel D'Aegher and Denise Thompson, Social Policy Research Centre and Disability Studies and Research Centre, University of New South Wales (2010)

This report was funded by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs under the Social Policy Research Services agreements, and undertaken by the Social Policy Research Centre and the Disability Studies and Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. It examined the effectiveness of individual funding of disability support and aimed to inform policy to improve the provision of disability support. Individual funding is defined in this report as a portable package of funds allocated for a particular person that facilitates control over how they purchase their disability support needs. The way individual funding is organised varies in relation to who holds the funds, which parts of it are portable and what disability support types it can be spent on from which parts of the market. Individual funding is more likely to be used by people of working age with low support needs, by male and non-Indigenous service users, by people with one disability and by people without informal care networks.

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