You can make an enormous difference in someone’s life and make sure they are not “shut out.”
“Many of the large institutions that housed generations of people with disabilities—out of sight and out of mind—are now closed. Australians with disabilities are now largely free to live in the community. Once shut in, many people with disabilities now find themselves shut out. People with disabilities may be present in our community, but too few are actually part of it. Many live desperate and lonely lives of exclusion and isolation. The institutions that once housed them may be closed, but the inequity remains. Where once they were physically segregated, many Australians with disabilities now find themselves socially, culturally and politically isolated. They are ignored, invisible and silent. They struggle to be noticed, they struggle to be seen, they struggle to have their voices heard.*”
Social isolation has emerged as an important issue confronting people with disabilities. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that 15 per cent of people with disabilities aged 15 to 59 (or 287,500 individuals) live alone compared to 6.8 per cent of people without disabilities.** For some people with disabilities, the years of isolation and exclusion have had a profound impact on self-worth and self-esteem.
The Citizen Advocacy Perth West office seeks out people with intellectual disability living in hostels, group homes or in the community, who have no actively involved family and are therefore particularly at risk. We assist individuals of all ages, usually without involved family, and with varying levels of intellectual disability.
The concept of Citizen Advocacy, like most good ideas, is simple:
- Identify a marginalised person.
- Bring the unmet needs of this person to the attention of an ordinary, caring community member.
- Support the one-to-one relationship of this person with their volunteer citizen advocate.
- Watch a formerly devalued person’s life blossom!
The essence of Citizen Advocacy is the facilitation of long term, one-to-one relationships, protecting and enhancing the lives of people with disability. Many citizen advocates give confidence to their protégés enabling them to reach their potential, become contributing members of society, encouraging them into voluntary roles and/or paid employment. Citizen advocates also bring their protégés into the shared space of community, fostering social inclusion.
* Excerpts from “SHUT OUT: The Experience of People with Disabilities and their Families in Australia National Disability Strategy Consultation Report prepared by the National People with Disabilities and Carer Council)
** Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2003, Disability, Ageing and Carers: summary of findings