There was a timely contribution this week from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to the debate being created by the Coalition government on the Disability Support Pension – with the suggestion that only people with a permanent disability could receive the payment. Some of the commentary on the just released report A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes suggests that much of the increase in the number of people on disability pensions is the result of some kind of rorting of the system. Hence the value of the ABS’s first issue reporting on Intellectual Disability, Australia, 2012
Noting that intellectual disability may affect every day social, emotional and cognitive skills, resulting in a reduced ability to live independently, the Bureau finds:
In 2012, around 567,000 people with intellectual disability needed assistance with at least one activity. The level and type of assistance required for people with intellectual disability varies depending on the severity of their disability. In the SDAC [Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers], the severity of a person’s disability is conceptualised through the level of limitation they have with core activities including communication, self-care and mobility. In 2012, the majority of people with intellectual disability (417,100 people or 62%) had a profound or severe core-activity limitation, which meant they always or sometimes needed help with mobility, self-care or communication. Around 153,000 people (23%) with intellectual disability had a moderate or mild core-activity limitation, which meant they did not need help but had difficulty with at least one of the core activities or had difficulties with minor tasks such as managing stairs without a handrail, picking up things from the floor etc. Another 64,000 people (10%) had a schooling or employment restriction only.
In the SDAC, people were asked about their need for assistance in ten specific areas. Severity of disability affected the type of activities with which people with intellectual disability needed assistance. For those with a profound or severe core-activity limitation and intellectual disability; cognitive and emotional tasks were the most common activity where assistance was needed or difficulty was experienced (92%), followed by mobility (82%) and heath care (76%). Around two-thirds of people with a moderate or mild core-activity limitation also needed assistance with cognitive and emotional tasks (65%), whilst reading or writing (35%) and health care (26%) were the next most common types of activities where they needed assistance.
The greater the severity of a person’s disability the more they needed assistance. The vast majority of people with a profound core-activity limitation (83%), and just over half of those with a severe core-activity limitation (53%), needed assistance with four or more activities. By comparison, most of those with a moderate or mild core-activity limitation needed assistance with between one and three activities (73% and 57% respectively).
People with intellectual disability may receive this assistance from formal or informal providers. Formal assistance refers to assistance provided by organisations (regardless of whether they make a profit) or paid individuals. In contrast, informal assistance is unpaid help or supervision that is provided to people with disability or older people. Of the 668,100 people with intellectual disability, almost one-third reported needing more formal assistance (29%) than they currently received, and around one in five needed more informal assistance (18%).