Posts for the disability dept

Disabilities and Carers – Accessing Support and representation

If you are a student with a disability there are a huge range of supports that you can access by registering with the university’s Disability Services. It is not compulsory to disclose your personal circumstances to the university, however, by registering with Disability Services, you can avoid struggling needlessly with your condition whilst individually negotiating assessment protocols. Instead, Disability Services provides support through a formalised mechanism which maintains your privacy around your exact circumstances to your teaching staff while advocating for the necessary adjustments you are entitled to.  If you are considering registering with Disability Services or would like to seek independent advice in doing so, you can make an appointment to see an SRC Caseworker by calling 9660 5222 or visit the SRC at Wentworth Building Level 1 for a Drop-in visit on Tuesdays & Thursdays, between 1 and 3pm.
Carers

Our Access & Inclusion for Carers in Higher Education Campaign is continuing into semester 2 this year. When this campaign launched last year, we sought to raise awareness at the national level about the barriers that young and mature-aged students with significant caregiving responsibilities face in accessing and successfully completing an Australian university education. The campaign this year has focused on advocating for carers’ support in universities within NSW, particularly those in the Sydney area and above all Sydney University. With the recent launch of the NSW Carers Strategy 2014-2019, the support and transition of primary and high school student carers into higher education is a major objective, and will likely see numbers of young carers reaching university increase. For this reason, it is ever more important that universities are prepared and willing to support this valuable group in realising their full potential through education. We are particularly impressed with the momentum with which the University of Western Sydney is moving toward the implementation of meaningful support for their student carers.

Seeking Student Involvement

We have formed a Student Consultative Group and are encouraging students to get involved and give their input in the development and progress of the university’s current Disability Action Plan. The first meeting is coming up soon and will meet again in October. The Disabilities & Carers Department is also looking for students who are interested in helping plan some activities throughout the remainder of the semester. We are looking to hold some picnics in Victoria Park when the weather warms up, and also a gardening and art workshop so students can get together for some food and fun activities to encourage everyone to take the occasional break from their studies when assessments kick in. If you would like to get involved in any of these activities, send us an email at disabilities.officers@src.usyd.edu.au.

Help for Students with a Disability & Student Carers

Did you know the university has a service to assist students with a disability to access reasonable adjustments in managing their studies?
Disability Services works closely with the university’s administration and faculties to support students with a disability whether it be physical, sensory, intellectual or  psychological. If you find that your health is causing problems with your studies in an on-going way or that you are repeatedly applying for Special Consideration for your condition, Disability Services may be able to help you.
Check out their website to see if you are eligible and how to register: sydney.edu.au/stuserv/disability/

Disability Services are located within Student Support Services – Level 5, Jane Foss Russell Building (G02), City Rd, Darlington Campus.
Are you a carer of someone with a disability?

The SRC Disabilities & Carers Collective meets regularly to provide student carers with information and support, and to lobby the university for carer rights. Anyone is welcome to meetings and you can follow their Facebook page “USYDdisabilities.carers”. Alternatively you can check out their webpage: srcusyd.net.au/disabilitiesandcarers  or email them at: disabilities.officers@src.usyd.edu.au

Do you need special consideration?

Special consideration is different to a disability plan. If you are not able to complete an assessment due to your disability, this should be accommodated by you disability plan. If you are not able to complete an assessment due to an unexpected exacerbation of an existing condition, or an illness or misadventure that has nothing to do with your disability you are able to ask for special consideration. As with all Special Consideration requests, make sure you get a specific additional Professional Practitioner’s Certificate on the day of your assessment to show how severely affected you were, and how you were affected, eg, unable to do exam or attend a lab.

Making Progress Student Carers Strategy and the Disability Action Plan

A lot has happened so far this year in the way of disabilities and carers’ matters and, as usual, this has largely involved behind-the-scenes work. In our capacity as student reps, we are a part of the Disability Action Plan (DAP) Consultative Committee; a group that meets every second month to discuss the progress of the University’s third DAP and an avenue through which members can flag any issues that may become apparent throughout the implementation process.

With five students on this committee, we are establishing a student consultative group to meet outside these meeting times to open the discussion and gather feedback from a broader range of students. We’re encouraging students who have been involved in their faculty’s local DAP to join the student consultative group as well as any other students who are interested in contributing their time and thoughts, so email us if you’re interested.

In other news, we have been meeting with other disabilities student reps from universities and TAFE in Sydney to rebuild the Australasian Network of Students with Disabilities (ANSWD) in the local area. This network will strengthen communication for students between institutions and serve as a way to share information, discuss campaigns and plan events in a unified fashion.

As far as our campaign for supporting Carers in Higher Education goes, we have been thrilled with the interest and feedback we have received through consultations with a wide range of stakeholders both within Sydney Uni and external institutions and organisations. We also have had involvement in the development of NSW’s five year Carer Strategy and are pleased that Carer involvement in education is now one of the major priorities of the strategy. Attending the NSW Ministerial Carers Strategy Summit in late March was a fantastic opportunity to be involved in this process but also to network with various attendees within university, business and government sectors. We’re confident that change is not far away- programs and policies to support Carers at uni are coming, but where they will appear first is anybody’s guess.

Sarah Chuah gives us the run down on how to register with Disability Services at USYD

It has been a huge privilege being involved with the Disabilities & Carers Collective this year. Representing the interests of students with disabilities and highlighting carers’ issues in higher education has been incredibly satisfying, and meeting so many wonderfully strong, exceptional students who identify as having a disability along the way has been rewarding and inspiring.

As you are probably aware, ‘disability’ comes in many forms, and is an umbrella term for any impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions that arise as a result of a mismatch between personal, social and environmental circumstances.

The experience of ‘disability’ is lessened in an environment that accommodates for impairments. The majority of disabilities are not visible because in addition to physical disability, impairments may also be intellectual, psychological, neurological, medical, learning or sensory based.

At Sydney University there are around 1700 students registered with Disability Services. This figure is less than the total number of students identifying as having a disability at enrollment, which means it is likely that many students may not getting the support and provisions they need and are entitled to. Reasons for this are varied, but may include a fear of stigma or a reluctance to disclose information about the nature of their impairment.

If you are a student who identifies as having a disability, we would love to hear about your experience studying at Sydney University. We are collecting data through a brief online survey. You DO NOT NEED to be registered with Disability Services to complete this survey.
This anonymous survey data will be used to communicate students’ experiences and opinions with the University to inform policy and decision-making.
If you haven’t joined us before, please come along to our last meeting for the year on Wednesday 30 October 12 pm at  New Law School Seminar Room 442.
Carers will also meet for the last time in Week 13, with day and time to be confirmed. If you would like to be involved, send me an email for more information.

Access and Inclusion: Carers in Higher Education

Prepared by the Students’ Representative Council Disabilities & Carers Collective 2013

Contents

Introduction Carers Australia …………………………………..3
Disabilities & Carers Collective ………………3

Who are Carers?

Definition …………………………………………….4
Why do they care? ………………………………4
Three tips from carers …………………………..4
Caring in all forms………………………………..4

Carers & Higher Education 

How caring affects students ………………….6

The Solution

How Universities can help …………………….8

Recommendations

Recognition and awareness………………….10
Access and inclusion …………………………..10

Personal Stories

Anna. …………………………………………………5
Natalie ……………………………………………….6
Mel …………………………………………………….7
Yaz …………………………………………………….7
Teena …………………………………………………8
Claire …………………………………………………9
Sally…………………………………………………..11

Related Information & Sources…………….11

Contributors

Thanks to the student carers who took extra time out of their schedules to contribute to the creation of this booklet. Sarah Chuah, Jasmin Camdzic, Melanie Halliday and Teena Roberts. Thanks also to the Staff at the Students’ Representative Council University of Sydney for their support.
Special thank you to Carers Australia, Students’ Representative Council University of Sydney for financial assistance, and Kallumn Chase Pty Limited for kindly allowing us to use their resources.

Disabilities & Carers Collective
Students’ Representative Council, The University of Sydney,
Level 1, Wentworth Building, G01, University of Sydney, NSW 2006 disabilities.officers@src.usyd.edu.au | srcusyd.net.au/disabilitiesandcarers facebook.com/USYDdisabilities.carers

Contact

Sarah Chuah: 0419 193 994
Jasmin Camdzic: 0403 800 595

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Introduction

Carers Australia

In Australia there are over 2.6 million people who care for family or friends with a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness, alcohol or other drug issue or those who are frail aged. Over 360,000 of these are young carers between the ages of 15 and 25.

Many carers emphasise the positive side of caring. However, when inadequately supported, health and wellbeing can be adversely affected.

The impact of the caring role on participation in education can be significant. For example, young carers are less likely to have completed year 12 (or an equivalent) than their peers, and over 60 per cent of primary carers aged 15-24 years are not studying. Research shows that isolation and social exclusion are major issues for carers, and it is not uncommon for student carers in tertiary
education to withdraw from their studies and from the social aspects of university life due to the demands of their caring role.

This can have a significant detrimental effect on carers’ future opportunities, with those aged 20 to 24 years more likely than their peers to be unemployed or not in the labour force.

In order to complete their studies, students who are carers require: recognition and greater understanding of their caring role and its impact on undertaking study; flexibility to meet attendance and assessment requirements; and additional support to help balance their caring responsibilities with study commitments

Carers Australia warmly welcomes the initiative of the University of Sydney’s Disabilities and Carers Collective in developing this booklet to raise the profile of student carers and to identify both the need and the means to better support them during their time at tertiary education.

Ara Cresswell
Chief Executive Officer
Carers Australia

Disabilities & Carers Collective

This year we set out to raise the profile of student carers and campaign for carers’ right to equitable education. As primary carers, we see a serious deficiency in the support extended to carers
who value their education but often lack the opportunity and flexibility necessary to realise their educational aspirations and fulfil their potential.

The data gathered from our Student Carers Survey conducted this year reflects how many carers have substantial difficulty balancing their study and care commitments, particularly at times when their care giving demands are intensified. While many Australian universities recognise and support staff needs as carers, there is a consistent lack of formal acknowledgement and virtually no explicit policies addressing unique needs of student carers.

We have put together this booklet to bring student carers’ issues to the fore so that decision-makers may become aware of what it means to be a student who cares and how policy can powerfully affect carers’ capacity to move forward beyond the caring role through higher education.

Sarah Chuah & Jasmin Camdzic
Disabilities Officers 2013, University of Sydney SRC, Disabilities & Carers Collective.

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Who are Carers?

Definition

The term ‘Carer’ refers to anyone who provides ongoing (or likely to be ongoing, for at least six months) informal support, including help or supervision, to persons with disabilities, long term conditions, or older people.1 Examples of care may include domestic, financial, practical or medical management, personal care and emotional support.

Caring duties may be shared – this impacts whether a person is the primary or secondary carer for an individual and may be carried out on a part-time or full-time basis.

Why do they care?

The most common reasons for informal care-giving are a lack of accessible and sufficient services that are affordable, as well as a sense of family obligation and expectations of responsibility.4

Caring in all forms

Caring roles exist across a diverse range of relationships. Although some forms of caring, such as that within the traditional family unit may be more socially acknowledged, caring responsibilities may also arise amongst indigenous people with kinship relations, those with extended family networks, and those otherwise outside traditional heterosexual couple units, such as those caring for friends.

Those in non-traditional caring roles may experience difficulty in having their caring roles recognised, and may face discrimination as carers when their complex situations are not understood.

Three Tips from Carers

1. Carers are, above all else, people and their role in society should be appreciated. Value the duties carers performmand don’t belittle their contribution to their community, study, work or their family. There is no shame in being a carer unless their work is not valued and recognised.

2. When talking with us, be aware that the term “carer” is a label, and where possible use our given name or title and surname. For some carers, this label is seen as irrelevant or redundant, as significant caring commitments may be seen as inherent to their relationships with others.

3. We come from diverse backgrounds and perform many different roles apart from being a carer. Appreciate our individuality; recognise that we offer a wide range of experiences and have a varied range of talents. We are people first and foremost.

Key issues experienced by young carers include:5

• Lack of recognition and awareness

• Barriers to engaging in education

• Mental health – reduced emotional and social wellbeing

There are 2.6 million carers in Australia3

Anna* 26, Part time University of Sydney cares for her partner’s mother

During my six years at university I have been the primary carer for my partner’s mother through her treatment for bowel cancer, heart failure, kidney failure, tumours, persistent and acute leg ulcers and numerous aggressive infections.

These conditions mean that whilst attending classes and undertaking assessments, I must also supervise medication administration, carry out personal care needs such as bathing and household tasks including cooking, cleaning and shopping. As her health fluctuates I must also be present at medical appointments, and apply medical aid at times of increased need. Accessing support during times when my care needs are intensified through my university’s special consideration policy is difficult and impractical, because each time something happens (which is often) I must obtain a medical

certificate from doctors or submit a statutory declaration. In the past I have had great difficulty getting a doctor’s certificate when it is not my own illness that is being attended to (or the main priority in critical situations), and finding a JP to witness a statutory declaration is an added stress because it is often time consuming when I am already short on time.

My caring duties take away time from studying and socialising, and really affect me psychologically. I find myself distracted, and frustrated, being unable to focus on learning material at crucial times. I believe that carers undertaking tertiary education should be fully acknowledged and supported in their efforts by their educational institution.

“Care-giving is rewarding at times… but contributes to the feeling of isolation from other students.”

Carers’ work allows persons with disabilities or long term illness to remain in their community, and older people to ‘age in place’.2

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Carers and Higher Education

How caring affects students Carers experience lower rates of education participation, success and attainment than
non-carers.6

While caring can be a very positive and rewarding experience, care-giving responsibilities can also place substantial emotional stress and practical demands on the carer most, if not all of their time, restricting the
amount of time that can be dedicated to study. This can also result in student carers withdrawing from social engagements, adding to the feeling of isolation and
preventing the creation of a support network of peers.

Student carers share their stories…

Natalie*, 19, full-time, University of Sydney cares for her mother and grandmother

I provide care for my mother who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder eight years ago, and for my grandmother who has dementia and also lives with us. Mum has been unable to work the past five years and struggles with motivation to do things most days.

I often find myself doing the majority of domestic duties including the household cleaning, laundry and cooking because my mother is unable to do these things well. I also help my mother organise her day, write shopping lists and decide what domestic duties need doing on any given day.
In addition to this I manage my grandmother’s appointments and accompany her to them when needed.

I don’t consider myself a ‘carer’ as such – I’m just really fulfilling my duties as daughter and granddaughter, however providing this support takes a large emotional/psychological toll, especially around exam periods when I get very stressed, angry, and frustrated. At times I feel that I’m not reaching my full potential, but you learn to cope.

As I try to balance my care commitments with university, casual employment, and a social life, studying can become very stressful. The hardest times are when my mother is hospitalised.

Visiting my mother in hospital is distressing in itself, and especially difficult with the added burden of having to carry out absolutely every domestic duty during this time. Sometimes I miss lectures because of my family’s needs but always try to catch up at a later date.

“I believe my university education is essential to my future and will lead me to be able to assist my family in more ways.”

I think a formalised adjustment system should assist carers with more flexible attendance arrangements. I believe all lectures should be recorded for the times when it’s simply too hard to get to class, and more subjects’ content should be available online.

I believe these formal adjustments would be an excellent way to acknowledge all the people out there who are carers, whose studies often come second to caring for another person, and would also be a great way for them to get support, if they need it.

Limited education and employment opportunity resulting from one’s caring responsibilities means that many carers must rely on income support after they cease their caring role.7

Mel, 26, part-time, University of Sydney cares for her mum

I care for my mum full-time whilst also completing a postgrad research degree, part- time. My mum has a rare autoimmune disease that has recently caused her to go blind, lose feeling in her hands and feet, have recurrent infections, a colostomy, seizures, impaired memory and cognition.

Mum sometimes finds it hard to communicate with people and has poor balance causing her to fall a lot, which makes it hard for her to dress and bathe herself. With her loss of vision, she is also unable to get food, drinks and do her medication by herself. Mum’s health often deteriorates quickly and dramatically, so we have many trips to the hospital and ICU. Because of this she needs someone with her all the time. Living as part of a busy family and with someone who needs 24 hour care means that I often have to miss meetings

and conferences and don’t make adequate progress on my study.

“In the past I have had to suspend my degree and considered withdrawing many times as a result of my caring role.”

Caring for someone who requires so much help and whose future is so uncertain takes a considerable emotional and physical toll,
making it hard to concentrate on my studies. It also impacts on my ability to interact with my friends who are my support network.

Yaz, 40, part-time, University of Sydney cares for his disabled parents

I began providing care for my parents at 15 years of age when my father went blind from

glaucoma – this was a traumatic time for my family with the added burden of losing our main source of income.

Completing high school was a struggle as my mother’s health also began to fail and my caring duties increased. After a number of years I made the decision to enroll in university in order to improve the quality of life for both myself and my parents. I found myself relishing an environment that valued knowledge and critical thought, however during my degree, my mother’s health issues became increasingly difficult to manage, and without adequate support, the responsibility fell upon me to provide essential medical care.

During this period I did not acknowledge my role as a ‘carer’ and despite my efforts was unable to access community support services. Around this time I was also diagnosed with the same disease that caused my father’s blindness. Without any external support, my psychological health suffered and I finally withdrew from my degree.

After many years of struggle with my mother’s recurrent illnesses I now acknowledge the significant contribution I have made to my parents’ well-being and have managed to return to Sydney University.

Since re-enrolling, my father has developed dementia and I am battling my own difficulties with glaucoma, but despite this I am determined to complete my degree.

My experience caring for my parents has been difficult, but has shown me that I have the capability to navigate through trying circumstances and successfully accomplish what I set out to. It is my hope that other student carers out there need not struggle along as I have for many years, but instead find support from their communities and universities.

Carers need acknowledgement as well as moral and practical support so that they can reach their full potential, despite the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves.

“Due to the high level of care that was needed, I was unable to attend classes and manage my study workload but felt reluctant to seek help from teaching staff for fear of stigma and negative attitude.”

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The Solution

How universities can support carers Greater flexibility in course delivery is often needed for carers who find attending classes on campus, completing assignments and studying for exams overwhelming and monumental tasks when emotionally and physically exhausted from their care commitments.

University policies should accommodate the needs of carers by incorporating flexibility in terms of attendance requirements, assignment deadlines and the provision of out-of-school learning options, such as online lecture recordings or notetaking services.

Student carers feel they would greatly benefit from targeted university support including:

• Formal recognition

• Increased awareness of student carers’ presence at university
• Flexible education arrangements

• Financial support such as scholarships or bursaries

• Social networks for carers on campus

“Student carers should be given academic support; someone to liaise with lecturers and supervisors on their behalf, especially in times of crisis, and to help with tutoring, time management and organisation.” Mel, part-time student carer

Teena, 60, part-time, Deakin University cares for her husband

I am a full-time carer for my husband who has cancer and cardiac failure. While at present this does not entail personal care it does require considerable emotional and supportive care. I am required to attend all medical appointments and to administer medication on a strict routine. Some days are good and I can achieve my study commitments while other days I achieve none. Studying off campus has allowed me to juggle all commitments and still achieve good marks. Although it is a juggle, the faculty I am with has always shown tolerance and support when things are bad which has assisted me in continuing to learn and develop. It is invaluable to one’s sanity and academic achievement that the role and duties of carers

are fully acknowledged and appreciated by all areas of the tertiary sector.

“Carers play a very unique role and it is important that the support and tolerance shown to me by my faculty, such as assignment extensions, be available to all student carers.”

Claire, 23, part-time, University of Wollongong cares for her best friend and father

I care for my best friend of 18 years who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, and my father who has bowel cancer. I started studying at UOW in 2009 following my HSC where I expected to study full-time for 3 years, graduate, and find work. This has not yet happened. Five years later I am still studying on a part-time basis due to my caring responsibilities.

My father is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy to treat bowel cancer. He
got sick very suddenly in June last year and underwent radical surgery followed by twelve months of aggressive therapies. Dad needed round-the-clock care for the six weeks following his operation which coincided with final exams. Since then his needs have fluctuated, typically increasing with chemotherapy treatment every three weeks. In addition to this, my best friend from kindergarten has cerebral palsy and relies heavily on me for community access.

Caring for my dad and best friend means that I often must miss classes and exams, submit assessments late, and struggle to achieve the results I am capable of. I managed to pass three of the four subjects I have attempted in the last year, however, most were bare passes in comparison to my general high distinction average.

As it is my father’s illness which is affecting my studies, I have found it impossible to obtain special adjustments, as the university’s policy requires me to constantly provide medical certificates, which at the end of the day are too difficult to obtain given that I am spending all my time and energy looking after my dad. I considered deferring but decided not to as university was the only part of my life that was just for me. University helps me thrive on a personal level – I have a disability and mental health condition myself and need to stay focused in order to survive.

“A formalised adjustment system for carers would greatly benefit me.”

I currently have a reasonable adjustment document which allows me certain considerations when I am myself unwell – a similar system would be fantastic for carers attending University. With such a system, I could as a carer happily provide the initial documentation from my father’s specialist, and then not need to worry about continually obtaining medical certificates throughout the session.

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Recommendations

“ Only four per cent of primary young carers between the ages of 15 to 25 years remain in education compared to 23 per cent of young people in the same age group.” 8

Recognition and awareness

Formally recognise carers in university policy by 1 encompassing a broad consideration of caring
circumstances and addressing the impacts on study that can result from caring duties.

Facilitate greater recognition of student carers 2 amongst staff and students by providing relevant
information on the unique and valuable role carers play in society and the complex issues they may face in an education context.

Ensure teaching staff are appropriately resourced 3 and informed about university policy for student carers to effectively encourage equitable access to education.

Gather demographic data upon enrolment to 4 widely assess carers’ involvement and continued engagement in higher education.

Access and Inclusion

Provide resources specific to carer needs to assist them to successfully negotiate their studies, including:

Flexible study arrangements to accommodate the 1 often unpredictable and unique nature of care-giving.

Support services such as a caseworker/2 liaison officer to mediate between carers and their lecturers and/or supervisors, to help with alternative study arrangements, time management and organisation.

Direct financial assistance and scholarships to assist with the financial issues faced by student carers.

Support networks and groups on campus to encourage carers’ participation in university life, strengthen social support and target carer isolation.

Related information & sources

Carers Australia: www.carersaustralia.com.au

State and Territory Carers Associations:
Carers ACT: www.carersact.org.au/ Carers NT: www.carersnt.asn.au/ Carers NSW: www.carersnsw.asn.au/ Carers QLD: www.carersqld.asn.au/ Carers SA: www.carers-sa.asn.au/ Carers TAS: www.carerstas.org/
Carers Victoria: www.carersvictoria.org.au/ Carers WA : www.carerswa.asn.au/

Related Sources
Commonwealth of Australia (2011) National Carer Strategy, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

Prepared by the Students’ Representative Council, The University of Sydney Disabilities & Carers Collective 2013 srcusyd.net.au/disabilitiesandcarers facebook.com/USYDdisabilities.carers

References

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2008) A profile of carers in Australia.
2 Commonwealth of Australia (2011) National Carer Strategy.
3 ABS (2009) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers.
4 Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA ) (2009) Young carers in Australia: understanding the advantages and disadvantages of their care giving (Social Policy Research Paper No. 38).
5 Cass, B, Brennan, D, Thomson, C, Hill, T, Purcal, C, Hamilton, M, and Adamson, E (2011) Young carers: Social policy impacts of the caring responsibilities of children and young adults.
* Name has been changed to maintain privacy

6 Cass, B, Brennan, D, Thomson, C, Hill, T, Purcal, C, Hamilton, M, and Adamson, E. (2011) Young carers: Social policy impacts of the caring responsibilities of children and young adults.
* Name has been changed to maintain privacy

7 FaHCSIA (2012) Young carers in receipt of Carer Payment and Carer Allowance 2001 to 2006: characteristics, experiences and post-care outcomes (Occasional Paper No. 47).

8 Carers Australia, Young carers research project, 2002, p. 2.

 

Sarah Chuah lets you know what’s happening in Carers Week

This week is Carers Week, a time to raise awareness and celebrate the 2.6 million people in Australia who devote their time to looking after a loved one who couldn’t manage without their support. Student carers are at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to participating in higher education, with only 4 % of 18-25 year old primary carers remaining in education compared with 23% of their same-aged peers.

Disabilities & Carers Officer Yaz Camdzic and I have been extremely busy leading up to this week, preparing for our student carers campaign to be heard at a national level.  The week began with a Morning Tea for Carers on main campus, where we also launched our booklet that was based on survey data collected earlier this year.  Access & Inclusion: Carers in Higher Education is targeted towards decision-makers, equity and student service providers at Australia’s 39 universities, and aims to raise awareness and push for support for student carers in higher education.

We have also been working alongside Australia’s peak organisation for carers, Carers Australia, who generously provided funding for our booklet, and Young Carers NSW who we shared a stall with at Carers’ Day Out on Tuesday, the country’s largest event for carers held in Martin Place.  This was a fun day and fantastic opportunity to get our message out to key figures.

We are extremely encouraged by the enthusiasm that was been expressed to us from stakeholders across the country – we look forward to seeing what comes out of this project and pushing on further with our campaign for student carers’ recognition and support.

For a copy of Access & Inclusion: Carers in Higher Education or for more information, contact me at disabilities.officers@src.usyd.edu.au. There is also a PDF version available online at www.srcusyd.net.au/disabilitiesandcarers.

Disabilities Officers updates you on the Uni’s new Disability Action Plan

The University’s new Disability Action Plan for 2013-2018 (DAP) was released last Friday. The launch began with Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum, who said “After a year in my class, students never think of a person with a disability in the same way again”.  Professor McCallum was the first totally blind person to be appointed the dean of a law school in Australia. While he imparted his experiences and knowledge with his students, unfortunately the same cannot be said for all staff members relating to disability issues.

Consultative process?

The University appears proud of its’ strong consultative process throughout the development of the DAP. Despite advertisements from late last year, unfortunately student participation was low and there were confidentiality issues for mixed staff and student input meetings. The primary issue raised by students was the impression that staff had a negative perception of students enrolled in disability services, for example experiences suggesting that it was an inconvenience for them and required additional paperwork (of which it does not). Ironically, Pearl Rozenberg, Business faculty Sub Dean (Academic Policy & Administration) felt it was appropriate to argue with me when I shared a negative experience with a Business staff as a result of my enrolment with Disability Services. At that stage, the DAP Action Group was unaware that the Disability Collective existed and did not contact us for input.

DAP’s Objectives:

The DAP lists 6 objectives including:

1.    The University incorporates the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities in all policies and planning
2.    The University is a tertiary education provider of choice for all students
3.    The University is an employer of choice for people with disabilities
4.    The University’s communication and digital environment is accessible to people with disabilities
5.    The University provides an accessible built environment to everyone
6.    The University provides leadership to the community in developing an inclusive Australian society.

Overall, the DAP will cost $6 million until 2018.

Looking more closely at the measurable outcomes listed for each objective, it is clear that most of the money will be spent on making the built environment accessible, including pathways, facilities and Braille signage.

A ‘one stop shop’ will be established on each campus by 2014 to provide information, advice and referral for students, including those with a disability. This would be beneficial for students at satellite campuses as current the Disability Collective has meetings on Main Campus only.

Also positive is the disability awareness training that all staff will be required to complete which should hopefully reduce the number and severity of negative interactions with students.

Unfortunately, the measurement of the DAP’s outcomes is heavily reliant on data collection from students. The primary issue surrounding data collection is the confidentiality of students registered with Disability Services, which on a number of occasions has been breached by the University. In some cases, students have deemed the risk of exposure too high and have decided not to register with Disability Services. Despite confidentiality processes were not mentioned in the DAP, I truly hope the University has given some thought to the critical nature of students’ confidentiality so all eligible students feel comfortable accessing Disability Services.

While the new DAP has the capacity to significantly benefit students with a disability, we will be watching closely to see how this will actually impact students on campus.

Come along to our next meeting on the 4th of September 12pm New Law School Seminar 105 to discuss what the new DAP means for you and how your semester is progressing.

 disabilities.officers@src.usyd.edu.au

Sarah Chuah talks about the struggles facing carers

Since the 1970’s there has been a noticeable shift in the appreciation of disability matters in Australia. From a concern over welfare for the disabled, today we recognise the rights for those with disabilities to participate in and engage fully with society. We are also witnessing a change in attitudes toward mental illness. Statistics telling us that one in four Australians will suffer some form of mental illness in their lifetime, forces the issue into the public and, with the issue of over diagnosis aside, arguably helps dissolve stigmas that have long been attached to mental illness diagnosis.  While those with disabilities and mental health issues have benefitted from these advances in recent decades, the recognition and rights of one group remains largely ignored.

The systemic move away from institutionalised care means that more and more family members and friends of people with disability, who are frail, elderly, have mental health, chronic health or substance abuse problems, must provide care for their loved ones with little to no support.  Although caring can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience with the potential to strengthen relationships, it places additional strain on the carer who must continue to meet their own educational, financial, psychological, social, emotional, and health needs while looking after those of another.

This year we are working hard to raise awareness about student carers at university, with an emphasis on recognition and establishing support mechanisms which help eliminate the gap in education participation and success and allow student carers to realise their full potential in tertiary education. Similar to the shift from welfare to rights of those with disabilities, there is a need to acknowledge the substantial contribution that carers make to society and support them adequately in their endeavours.

We are currently collecting data and stories of student carers at university and encourage anyone who provides support for another person to complete a quick 10 question survey which can be accessed through our Facebook page www.facebook.com/USYDdisabilities.carers, or contact us for more information..

The Disabilities and Carers Collective have a few exciting things on their agenda

Student Carers

We’ve changed our name to the ‘Disabilities and Carers Collective’ to highlight the issue and campaign for the recognition of and support of hidden student carers on campus.
Student carers often have difficulty balancing their university, work and care commitments and are more likely to have low participation and success in education and employment than non-carers. Currently at the University of Sydney there are no support mechanisms in place for student carers that acknowledge the need for study or assessment adjustments due to ongoing or increasing care commitments.

Who are carers?

The term ‘carer’ refers someone who provides unpaid, informal care for someone with a disability, an ongoing illness, mental illness, chronic condition or drug or alcohol condition. Tasks undertaken by Carers may include domestic activities, household management, financial and practical management, personal care and emotional support.

Why are they hidden?

Carers remain a hidden group for a number of reasons, including not identifying as being a carer because they see what they do as a ‘normal’ part of the lives and shared relationship, or being reluctant to identify because of potential stigmas.

To collect data for the Student Carer Recognition and Rights campaign, we are asking students who identify as carers, or are unsure if they qualify, to complete a short survey at http://qrs.ly/a13aqe9 or via the QR code shown.

Mental Health
We will be running a mental health campaign later in the year focusing on awareness and the promotion of existing and new services available for affected, interested and supportive students.

Redfern Station Access

The lack of disabled access to Redfern station will be targeted. As the closest train station to Sydney University, we believe Redfern station should be accessible to everyone, including those with physical disabilities, parents with prams, the elderly and others wishing to access Redfern but unable to climb the station stairs.

We are growing and have developed an active Facebook page to improve our communication with members and related organizations. Search for us and ‘like’ our page to hear more about what exciting stuff we’re up to, or for more information send us an email.

Disabilities & Carers Officers Report

Hi everyone, I’m Sarah and I’m really excited to be one of your Disability Collective officers with another Sarah and Yaz. We have been super busy over the break thinking of amazing things to do for all the courageous students who identify as having a disability and you awesome people who don’t identify but still care about those who do. We had a really successful stall during O-Week, it was great meeting you and hearing your stories! I was, however, disappointed that our O-Week stall wasn’t accessible to all. We have plenty of goodie bags with relevant fact sheets and lollies left over in the office, so if you did miss out, just let us know and we can get them to you. Our first collective meeting will be next week on Thursday, 4-5pm. The location is TBC, so join our Facebook group for all the latest information. I had the pleasure of attending a Rare Disease Conference on transitional services and it gave my plenty of amazing ideas about how to help first year students use transition and disability services. If you have any ideas, feel free to search for the disability collective group on Facebook. Look forward to seeing you next Thursday.