ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Narrow focus on markets puts choice and control for people with disability at risk

26 May 2017

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) and People With Disabilities ACT (PWD ACT) have released two publications which reflect on the extent to which the emphasis on markets alone has succeeded in bringing greater choice and control to people with disability.

ACTCOSS’ paper Choice and Control: Strengthening human rights, power and inclusion for people with disability, argues we need to assess and progress choice and control within a human rights framework, in addition to implementing a marketised framework for disability service provision.

According to Robert Altamore, PWD ACT’s Executive Officer, “There is a fundamental disconnect between the operational principles of the classical market and the daily lives of people with disabilities. In the markets in which people with disabilities operate there is no equality of bargaining power between buyers and sellers.”

“Limiting choice and control to a choice of provider in a market, prevents people with disability having the full spectrum of real and meaningful choice in their lives, and therefore their ability to have control over their own life,” says Mr Altamore.

If human rights do not underpin progress for people with disability exercising choice and control over the services and supports they utilise, we will continue to see market failure in service provision. This will add to the many market failures that already impede people with disability’s exercise of choice and control in every domain of their lives. These existing market failures people with disability face include:

  • Flat housing careers that demonstrate lack of choice and control over where and with whom people live;
  • Inaccessible communities, services and facilities on a daily basis;
  • Significant barriers to employment, with employment rates of around 53%[1] not changing for the last 20 years, with Australia 21st out of 29 OECD countries for employment participation for people with disability[2];
  • Inequality before the law and significant barriers to accessing justice;
  • Poorer education outcomes, in turn affecting future employment; and
  • Limited access to mainstream health services, and poorer health outcomes, including aspects of health unrelated to their specific disability.[3]

Susan Helyar, Director of ACTCOSS says, “Broadening choice and control through a human rights framework, would facilitate people with disability enjoying full citizenship, with equal rights to exercise choice and control over: their legal rights; economic security and financial affairs; health and wellbeing; supports; where and with whom they live; political and public life; personal mobility; and, communication and expressing themselves.”

A themed feature edition of People With Disabilities ACT’s journal, The Canberra Disability Review is also being launched in partnership with ACTCOSS. It aims to ignite to and stimulate the discussion of how well choice and control for people with disability has progressed – both in terms of the National Disability Strategy and the NDIS. This edition of the journal interrogates choice and control and provides a range of opinion pieces responding to ACTCOSS’ Choice and Control publication; a series of vox pops giving NDIS’ participant perspective on whether choice and control has improved; and a reality check of how far we’ve come since the National Disability Strategy was developed in improving human rights for people with disability.

It also has a unique infographic which shows how disability supports, mainstream systems and choice and control interact with underpinning rights and convention. “The game style layout is thought provoking and interactive with a serious side,” says Mr Altamore. “We’re inviting people to interact with key support elements and get a feeling for how chance underpins markets when they operate in the real world as well as how mainstream and specialist supports are required to work in unison to achieve the reality of choice and control.”

Lastly, Ms Helyar says, “We need to get back on task with the human rights based choice and control agenda. Investment is urgently needed to enable the full expression of choice and control by people living with disabilities. There are recommendations in our Budget submission and companion Budget briefing on the investments which are needed in this area. We have also made recommendations in our Submission to the Productivity Commission on NDIS costs and a submission to the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee on the National Disability Strategy. These include properly funding disability voice and advocacy organisations, independent and systemic advocacy, and planning of infrastructure renewal with disability access as a top priority.

“We need to monitor our progress against all components of the National Disability Strategy, including and beyond the NDIS and we need to ensure the planning processes, systems and resourcing through the NDIS actually promote choice and control,” Ms Helyar concluded.

PWD ACT and ACTCOSS will be holding a joint forum on 14 June 2017 to which we will be inviting Ministers, disability advocates and others in the community to agree solutions and chart a path back to choice and control.

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, ACTCOSS on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.
Robert Altamore, Executive Officer, PWD ACT on 0423 931 753 or 02 6286 4223.  


[1]    Australian Bureau of Statistics, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: First Results, 2015, cat. no. 4430.0.10.001, ABS, Canberra, 2016, viewed 24 May 2017, <[email protected]/mf/4430.0.10.001>.

[2]    Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers - A Synthesis of Findings across OECD Countries, OECD, 2010, p.51.

[3]    Australian Government, Commonwealth of Australia, National Disability Strategy, 2010 p.59, viewed 25 May 2017, <>.