Sunday, 27 October 2013

Consumer Directed Care: better days are coming

"Consumer Directed Care" is a phrase we're going to hear more and more in relation to disability services in Australia.  This, if it comes to pass the way it's intended, will be fantastic news.

It's about a change in the way funding for disability services work.  Rather than funding being tied to service providers, it'll instead be tied to consumers.  That's us.

For instance, at the moment a particular organisation might be given a particular bucket of money to provide a particular service to a particular demographic.  If you're a disabled person (or elderly, since there's a lot of this going on in aged care too) it's a matter of finding a local service which lines up with your particular needs.  If there is one.  If there isn't, sucks to be you.

It does suck, because often there are programs that would be really helpful for Aspies, but we don't qualify because we're not the demographic that service was set up to help.  A living skills course for people with intellectual disability might be really handy for other people struggling with self-care, for instance, but if you don't have an intellectual disability you're not eligible for the program.  Similarly I know of a program that does fantastic things getting people with mental illness engaged with society and where appropriate into employment, but autism isn't a mental illness so we don't get to play there either, even though that's a massive area of need for the autistic community.

However, under Consumer Directed Care, that all changes.  Instead of that money being allocated to a service provider, who has a plan for how best to spend it, it goes to us, the consumer.

That doesn't mean we literally get a nice fat cheque.  But it does mean we get to decide which organisation we deal with, and what sort of services we need.  We get to have a personalised, tailored plan drawn up between us, our carers if we have them, and our service provider(s), that lays out what outcome we're looking for, how we're going to achieve that, and who's going to do what to make it happen.  It gets reviewed down the track to see if it's working.  And if it's not, hopefully you'll be able to fire your care provider and take your business elsewhere.

So if a service provider doesn't offer anything useful to us, they don't see our money.  If they want our money they have to provide services we actually want and need.

And in a world where all too many autism services begin and end with preschoolers and ignore us once we grow up, anything that encourages meaningful, useful services has to be a good thing.