Disability advocates call for NDIS to cover range of 'sexual services'

More than 40 organisations want the NDIS to include 'funding for sex work and sex therapy services'.

Disabled Australians should be able to 'express their sexuality and have fulfilling sexual experiences', advocates say.

Disabled Australians should be able to 'express their sexuality and have fulfilling sexual experiences', advocates say. Source: Getty

Disability advocates are calling on the Morrison government to develop a "comprehensive sexuality policy" as part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

On Wednesday, more than 40 groups co-signed a statement expressing concern that Australians on the NDIS are facing barriers to "express their sexuality and have fulfilling sexual experiences".

Advocates want the NDIS to cover sexual services.
Source: Getty

"Historically, people with disability have been subjected to societal beliefs that we are either asexual or hypersexual, while constantly being denied full autonomy over our own bodies," the statement says.

"The NDIS has further perpetuated this stigma by failing to develop or produce a clear and comprehensive sexuality policy for NDIS participants."

The NDIS is expected to be in full operation by 2020.

It suggests the sexuality policy include goals an NDIS participant may seek to include in their NDIS plan.

"These goals might include: appropriate disability-inclusive sexuality and relationships education; information and resources to support individual learning needs; support for dating and social sexual engagements; access to adaptive sex toys; access to sex therapy or utilising sexual services from sex workers."

The NDIS is a federal government scheme that is intended to provide 460,000 Australians who have a permanent or significant disability with funding for supports and services.

People who have a physical or intellectual disability might find it difficult to express their sexuality in satisfying ways.
Source: Getty

Matthew Bowden of People with Disability Australia and Disabled People's Organisations Australia said a sexuality policy was a missing piece in the NDIS.

"By developing a comprehensive, rights-based sexuality policy, the National Disability Insurance Agency [which implements the NDIS] will recognise the needs of people with disability to a full, adult, ordinary life," he said in a statement.

Some people with disability need specific support to enjoy a positive sexuality

Saul Isbister

Saul Isbister, the president of charitable organisation Touching Base, said: "some people with disability need specific support to enjoy a positive sexuality and healthy relationships, as part of having an ordinary life".

"The NDIS needs to include access to these supports, and not deny their sexual expression."

Material for Touching Base said the organisation was "developed out of the need to assist people with disability and sex workers to connect with each other".

The call comes as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal recently granted a woman with multiple sclerosis the right to have a sex therapist paid for under the NDIS.

In granting her claim, the tribunal's deputy president Brian Rayment QC found her funding request to be "reasonable and necessary support".

"The support will help her realise her potential for social and emotional development and to participate in social life," he said.

Mr Isbister said the AAT decision "shows that the community understands the very basic concept that people with disability have sex, just like non-disabled people, and may need to access support for their sexual expression".

Minister Stuart Robert speaks during House of Representatives Question Time.
Source: AAP

But the government has indicated such requests are "not in line with community expectations".

Commenting on the recent ATT ruling, Minister for the NDIS Stuart Robert said: "the National Disability Insurance Agency intends to appeal".

"The current position continues to be that the NDIS does not cover sexual services, sexual therapy or sex workers in a participant's NDIS plan," he told ABC News.

"These services are not in line with community expectations of what are reasonable and necessary supports."

Additional reporting: AAP

Published 29 August 2019 at 4:53pm
By Nick Baker