Tuesday, April 22, 2008

SA Government - giving disability a new meaning

Family Services and Disability Minister Jay Weatherill was hard pressed to explain his government's latest cash-grab when questioned on ABC's Matt & Dave show this morning. In what can only be seen as yet another example of government revenue raising, the Minister's office has sent a letter to disabled South Australians asking them to cough up for wheelchairs, beds, mattresses, seat pads and a range of other equipment upon which they rely to carry out everyday activities that most of us take for granted.

According to the ABC 's program, disabled people will be required to pay up to $20 a month to use equipment that - up until now - they have had use of without charge. Why the sudden change? Well, it appears the government believes that the only way disabled people will respect the equipment they have is to make them pay a monthly surcharge. The Minister stated that there are many people who have in their possession items that they use only a few times a year, or not at all. He quoted the example of one person who apparently has five wheelchairs in their possession. These items could be distributed to others who are in need of this under-utilised equipment. In part, this seems like a reasonable solution to an apparent equipment shortage. However, asking already marginalised people with permanent disability to pay for the equipment that they are using on a regular basis beggars belief and is hardly a solution to the problem.

Would it not be easy for the government to ask for the return of the under-used items without adding a surcharge to the rest? Could the government not conduct an audit and collect any items that are surplus to an individual's requirements? Too simple a solution perhaps.

Financial hardship is just one of many challenges faced by those who live with a permanent disability. One caller to the ABC program stated that her son, who was already struggling to get by on a small pension, would be hard up to pay the $200 plus required from the government each year under the new scheme.

According to the Minister, there will be a chance for those who can prove 'hardship' to apply for a waiver - although there was no mention of this in the letter which arrived in letterboxes this morning. Waivers aside, it seems our State Government is prepared to target our most vulnerable in order to save a few pennies whilst at the same time it invests millions into creating the conditions for private business to make more profit.

Unlike some of the ALP's top brass, Jay Weatherill is well respected by many in the community; if carried out, this latest attack on South Australians may well put an end to that.

Take action to stop this greedy cash grab by our State Government. Click here to email the Minister and tell him to stop this outrageous scheme.

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