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Royal Commission welcomes new roadmap to improve the health of people with intellectual disability

The Disability Royal Commission welcomes the Australian Government’s release of a new national roadmap that aims to improve the health of people with intellectual disability (Roadmap).

The Royal Commission strongly supports any initiative that addresses the serious inequities people with cognitive disability face in the current health system, and that attempts to develop a system in which they have access to high quality, timely and comprehensive care.

The Royal Commission has held a number of Public hearings* that have closely examined various aspects of the provision of health care for people with cognitive disability, including people with intellectual disability, autism and acquired brain injuries. The Roadmap takes into account a range of matters that have been raised in these hearings and the related Commissioners’ reports.

In the report published after its first such hearing – Public hearing 4: Health care and services for people with cognitive disability – the Royal Commission found that people with cognitive disability have been and continue to be subject to systemic neglect in the Australian health system.

Commissioners noted and accepted that while the Australian Government has supported initiatives to address this neglect, in future it will be necessary for it to “…provide the resources to ensure the robust implementation of the initiatives that have been developed”. Commissioners observed that:

“These initiatives must be implemented nationally; data must be gathered systematically and research undertaken to evaluate their success in improving the health of people with cognitive disability; steps must be taken to change entrenched negative attitudes and assumptions made by many health professionals and institutions about people with cognitive disability; health professionals must acquire the specialised skills required to equip them to care for and support people with cognitive disability; and active steps must be taken to address the particular health care needs of people with autism.”

The Chair of the Royal Commission, Ronald Sackville AO QC, said that the Royal Commission hopes to hear from people with cognitive disability, their families, supporters and stakeholders about their experiences, once the roll-out of the national road map commences.

In due course the Royal Commission will consider whether the roadmap, as it affects people with cognitive disability, raises any issues within the terms of reference and, if so, whether any further inquiries are appropriate.

*Public hearing 4 – Healthcare and service for people with cognitive disability

Public hearing 5 – Experiences of people with disability during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Public hearing 6 – Psychotropic medication, behaviour support and behaviours of concern

Public hearing 10 – Education and training of health professionals in relation to people with cognitive disability

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