Putting ability back into disability
Deakin University lecturer Dr Elizabeth Manning brings an extra dimension to her economics teaching: a profound knowledge and understanding of disability and its links to economics.
In particular, she has a special interest in the Federal Government’s proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Dr Manning came to Deakin in 2005.
She took out an Excellence in Teaching award in the Faculty of Business and Law the following year and won further awards in 2008 and 2012.
But as mother of 15 year old Penny, who has a disability, Dr Manning found her personal experiences colliding with her career as an academic.
“There was so much I could see that was wrong in the system, I wanted to see if I could do some research and make a contribution,” she says.
“I realised I am in an unusual position that gives me an opportunity to do something – it is something I feel I could do and should do.”
It will surprise a lot of Australians to learn that there is no automatic right of access to disability support across the board in their country and Dr Manning says Australia does not stand up well in the way it supports people with disabilities and their families.
“Out of 27 OECD countries, Australia is ranked 27th for poverty outcomes for people with a
While a NDIS is welcome news to Dr Manning, she says there are major shortfalls. The roll out means, after four years, just five per cent of Australia’s estimated 411,000 people with a significant disability will receive individual support under the scheme.
Along with her Warrnambool colleague, Dr Helen Scarborough, Dr Manning has begun research that she hopes will contribute to solving some of the issues that face the NDIS’s implementation.
“We are researching how much people are willing to pay for the scheme,” she says. “It is difficult because people don’t know. It is hard to put a value on it.”
The fact that different tiers of government are responsible for designated areas doesn’t help, so there is plenty of work to be done.
Her interest in the NDIS and in disability services generally links to her teachings in economics, bringing a real life situation to the theory, Dr Manning says.
“It becomes a part of public choice issues like taxation and becomes a kind of case study for public policy. Students can see how decisions relating to the economy are made," she said.
“Students are part of the broader community, many of whom are shocked at what those with disabilities endure.
“A lot of people are touched by disability but that doesn’t mean they understand the inadequacy of the current resources.
"For example, long term accommodation is a problem where a lot of elderly people are looking after and caring for completely dependent adult children. Awareness is the main thing – when people become aware they want to do something.”
When appropriate funding is made available for disability services, the benefits are both personal and economic, says Dr Manning.
“The people lead happier and more productive lives but it also makes economic sense,” she says.
“If people with disabilities enter the workforce they come off welfare, earn money and pay tax. A scheme can pay for itself within 10 years.
“The people lead happier and more productive lives but it also makes economic sense. If people with disabilities enter the workforce they come off welfare, earn money and pay tax. A scheme can pay for itself within 10 years.”
Dr Manning is looking forward to her research contributing to such important changes for so many Australians.
“Economics is all about choice and the NDIS is about choice too: how the government chooses to support people with disabilities,” she says.
“There is a growing incidence of people getting older and a lot of them are unable to cope without more resources.”