Why focus on Health and Disability?
29 Jan 2020
In Australia, an estimated 1 in 5 people (4.3 million) have disability while in any year approximately 1 in 5 people will also experience mental ill-health.
Many of those people can receive the support they need to manage their health and achieve positive life outcomes, but for a significant number they are not able to get the care and support they need to live a life that is satisfying and free from stigma.
This is why SYC has recently launched our Health and Disability service portfolio: to support these people and to further deliver on our Mission of empowering the people we work with to create a life without disadvantage, to build sustainable independence and to experience personal wellbeing in all areas of their life.
SYC has a long history of working with people with disability or experiencing mental ill-health. The creation of the Health and Disability portfolio recognises that it is time to highlight and focus on that experience so we can empower people with disability or a medical condition to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
When looking at the expected outcomes for people with disability or mental ill-health the case for SYC acting is clear.
People with disability generally rate their health as poorer than other Australians.
Research compiled by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW, 2018) found that people with a disability were 6.2 times as likely as people without a disability to rate their health as ‘poor’ or ‘fair’ (41% compared to 6.5%).
People on the Disability Support Pension (DSP) generally rate their health as poorer than people whose primary income was from wages.
Research conducted by Monash University (2019) found that 61.6% of people on the DSP rated their health as ‘poor’ or ‘fair’ compared to only 8.7% of wage earners. Specifically, people on the DSP were 18.3 times more likely than wage earners to rate their health as poor.
People with disability use health services (e.g. general practitioners (GPs) and Emergency Departments (ED)) more than people without disability.
Data from the AIHW shows that people with disability were twice as likely to have used an ED in the past 12 months compared to people without disability and twice as likely to have needed a medical specialist.
People experiencing mental illness are more likely to attend Emergency Departments in Crisis.
Compared to people with other health conditions who were presenting at an ED, people experiencing mental illness were nearly twice as likely to arrive by ambulance, ten times as likely to arrive by police or correctional services vehicles, and twice as likely to be in ED for more than 8 hours.
People with disability are more likely to be unemployed and less likely to participate in the labour force.
The unemployment rate for people with disability is nearly double the rate for people without disability while labour force participation is significantly lower.
People with disability are less likely to complete Year 12.
32% of Australians aged 20 and over with disability completed year 12 or equivalent, compared to 62% of their peers without disability.
Education attainment improves the employment outcomes for people with disability, but not to the level of people without disability.
At every qualification level, from no education attainment to Bachelor’s Degree or Higher, people without disability are more likely to list their main source of income as wages or salary compared to someone with disability with the same qualification. For instance, only 43% of people with disability who attained a bachelor’s degree or higher have wages or salary as their main source of income compared to 78% of people without disability. 58% of people without disability who have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher earn over $1,055 per week compared to 37% of people with disability.
Students with mental ill-health fall behind in school.
The Productivity Commission report into Mental Health highlighted that by Year 9 a student with mental ill health is nearly 3 years behind in Grammar and Writing, 2 years behind in Numeracy, nearly 2 years behind in Spelling, and almost 1.5 years behind in Reading.
High rates of mental ill-health in the justice system.
Around 40% of prison entrants have been told they have a mental health disorder at some stage in their life, which is double the rate of the non-prison population.
People with disability who need homelessness support are likely to have higher, more complex needs for support and present with additional risk factors that act as a barrier to exiting homelessness.
62% of people accessing Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) with disability also have mental ill-health compared to 35% of those without disability (AIHW). They are nearly twice as likely to have experienced homelessness before and twice as likely to be experiencing drug or alcohol related issues. Their exit from homelessness support is also likely to take longer and require more services.
Mental ill-health and homelessness are strongly linked.
In 2017–18, 28% (81,004 persons) of SHS users had a current mental health issue (AIHW 2019). This is significantly higher than the rate of mental illness among the general population (16.2%). Once connected with a SHS, they needed more support, receiving a median of 72 days of support, almost twice as many days as the general SHS population (37 days of support).
More needs to be done to deliver better life outcomes for people with disability or experiencing mental illness. Conservatively, the cost of mental ill-health and suicide alone is estimated at $43 to $51 billion per year while in the lead up to the introduction of the NDIS, PricewaterhouseCoopers analysed the cost to governments of disability support, without reform to deliver better outcomes, and found it would be two to three times the cost of an NDIS.
If SYC’s experience can help build capacity for independence, alleviate disadvantage and promote positive wellbeing for these clients then the benefits for the individual and community are significant.
Analysis conducted by the Productivity Commission found that delivering more effective and efficient services for people living with mental ill-health could improve the average life expectancy by an estimated 4.6 and 6 years of healthy life. Similarly, people with disability currently have a life expectancy up to 20 years lower than those without disability and improving their outcomes would improve their life expectancy.
Economically, there would also be substantial benefits. Improving the employment levels for people with disability (including increased participation of carers) to match the OECD average would add $11.9 billion to real GDP by June 2030. Modelling produced by the Productivity Commission also found that by improving people’s mental health and, subsequently, increasing their connection to employment, raising their income and improving health-related quality of life are likely to be worth between $8.8 to $11.5 billion dollars per year.
We believe now is the time to make a concerted effort to grow our capacity, footprint and effectiveness in the Health and Disability area so that we can empower people with disability or a medical condition to live healthy, fulfilling lives. Read more about our experience working with people with disability or check our Health and Disability Services.