Siblings important for NDIS support

Port Lincoln NDIS participant Linda Robinson is well supported by her sister Bernice Cunningham. PHOTO: CHARLOTTE MARTIN 374241_01

As National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Review recommendations are handed to the federal government in the coming weeks, Siblings Australia has released a timely paper exploring siblings’ contributions to achieving Australia’s Disability Strategy (ADS).

Bernice Cunningham has been caring for her sister, Port Lincoln NDIS participant Linda Robinson, for about 20 years, moving into a supported living house once their mother could no longer provide full-time care.

“I’m a big part of what Linda does, I advocate very loudly and proactively for having her involved in the community,” Ms Cunningham said.

“I want her to have the best life she can, with the best healthcare.”

When asked about the support she received as a sibling, Ms Cunningham said it was really thanks to Empowrd that she was connected and supported.

“Empowrd have been amazing, they’ve put some things in their newsletter which I’ve chosen to attend, mainly advocacy seminars – there is probably need for more support out there,” she said.

“Things like manual handling courses aren’t actively advertised to family members of loved ones who are NDIS participants that I’ve ever seen.”

Bernice said she has relied on Empowrd for her connectivity and support within the NDIS system.

“NDIS participants should be supported and nurtured, and I hope that NDIS recommendations support people’s concerns and have people available to properly respond to complaints.”

Siblings Australia’s paper, ‘Why are siblings important to achieving disability policy goals in Australia?’, examined the central support provided by siblings against the policy areas in ADS.

Key recommendations include supporting programs to better equip siblings to plan for the financial independence of their siblings with disability, providing education about the housing options that may be available to them, education about the NDIS and how to navigate the intricate systems for sibling carers, as well as ways in which they can engage in supported decision making and the protection of a brother or sister’s rights.

Siblings Australia chief executive Dr Shannon Schedlich said the NDIS and inclusion itself were predicated on the idea people with disabilities had strong informal networks in place.

“Siblings are usually the longest relationship of a person’s life; but this integral informal support relationship is so often overlooked,” she said.

“Through the white paper, we clearly demonstrate how siblings are already supporting the goals of the strategy and how, with further support for siblings, they can go even further to ultimately help in efforts to achieve the government’s goals for improving the lives of the 4.4 million Australians with disability in Australia.”