Young people with a disability are missing out on extra support in the classroom under restrictive Victorian guidelines.
Disability Minister Luke Donnellan has been lobbied to change the rules which are preventing many young people with autism from qualifying for in-school support, but instead of standing up he’s ducking for cover.
At Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) on Friday, the Minister handballed responsibility for the issue to the Education Minister – despite students being denied support in contradiction to the Disability Minister’s own Victorian Autism Plan.
The Plan, which featured a glossy headshot of Minister Donnellan and his foreword on page one, speaks of strengthening inclusive education for autistic students.
However, presently students with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder must have an autism diagnosis as well as both a deficit in adaptive behaviour and a significant language deficit to quality for funding support at school.
This means many with autism do not qualify for the supports they need if they do not have a language deficit also.
When asked if he thought it was fair many with autism are being denied these funds due to the restrictive criteria – in direct conflict with the statement in his own plan – the Minister rambled before taking no responsibility.
The Minister later handballed questions on disability workforce shortages in Victoria, despite the National Disability Service (NDS) seeking funds at the state level to address the problem.
Comment attributable to Shadow Minister for Disability Tim Bull
Labor’s Disability Minister Luke Donnellan is the ‘handball king’.
It is not right the Minister puts statements in his Victorian Autism Plan to give parents and families confidence their children will be supported at school and then sits quietly when restrictive criteria is put in place that denies them supports.
It’s no wonder Victorian children and families are being let down by the Labor Government when the Disability Minister doesn’t consider issues within the Victorian disability sector as his responsibility.
The Minister needs to advocate more strongly with his colleague, the Education Minister, to ensure students falling through the cracks are supported, not promise one thing in his Plan and then sit back when it does not happen.