Call for urgent Inquiry into intellectual disability deaths

Dying for change: call for urgent Inquiry into intellectual disability deaths

A much-needed Federal Government inquiry into the health status of people with intellectual disability will be the focus of a UNSW Grand Challenges event in Sydney next week (Monday November 5).

The event, ‘Dying for Change: lightning talks for action on improving the health and life expectancy of Australian people with intellectual disability’, follows a study by UNSW researchers last year, which found that Australians with intellectual disability are dying from avoidable deaths at twice the rate of the general population.

“People with intellectual disability die from causes similar to other Australians, but they die earlier, and more likely from potentially avoidable causes because they experience multiple barriers to quality healthcare, and because health professionals and services are not equipped to meet their needs,” Chair of Intellectual Disability Mental Health at UNSW, Professor Julian Trollor, said.

“There is no overarching national or state strategy that addresses the vulnerability and needs of people with intellectual disability.

“The lack of a strategy breaches Australia’s obligations under section 25 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

Professor Trollor will be joined on the panel by three prominent intellectual disability experts from the UK, including Professor of Public Health and Disability at Lancaster University, Professor Chris Hatton.

The panel will hear from Interim Director of the UNSW Disability Innovation Institute, Rosemary Kayess, who in June was elected to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Senior advocate with Council for Intellectual Disability (CID) Jim Simpson will also speak about the CID call for the federal government inquiry.

“At a national level, the stark health inequalities faced by people with intellectual disabilities often seem invisible to health planners,” Mr Simpson said.

“Time and again, we see Commonwealth health initiatives that do not consider or work for people with intellectual disability.

“In NSW, we have seen significant progress with funding of specialised intellectual disability health services to backup mainstream services.

“This progress should be a trigger for a Commonwealth response.

“An independent national inquiry is needed to provide the Federal Government with a framework for comprehensive action.”

Professor Trollor called for a national death reporting system for Australians with an intellectual disability.

“This would be a step which would enable us to expose the issue, examine the reasons for it and would enable us to examine the impact of improvements over time following any specific strategies or enhancements,” he said.

The Dying for Change panel event is being presented by UNSW’s Disability Innovation Institute, Grand Challenges and Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry, in conjunction with the NSW Council for Intellectual Disability.

/Public Release.