The Federal Disability Services Act sought to influence the reform agenda for disability services by reshaping available funding. Two major reforms included the downsizing of large accommodation services and replacing sheltered workshops with community-based employment.
These reforms did not necessarily run smoothly. Parents who had been responsible for the establishment of sheltered workshops and nursing homes some decades earlier were understandably concerned about their possible closure. Agencies that tried to rapidly introduce reforms or ignore the reforms altogether were caught in the crossfire.
Some agencies embraced the opportunity for change, and took advantage of the Commonwealth financial incentives to regroup. Other agencies were slower to respond, in part confused by a mix of funding sources.
Agencies receiving funding from both state and federal government were unsure of the state and territories’ obligation to follow federal policy.
This confusion was overcome with the first Commonwealth State Disability Agreement in 1991. States assumed administrative responsibility for family support, recreation, community access, alternatives to employment, and accommodation services, while the Commonwealth took responsibility for employment services.
In Western Australia, this restructure of funding and administration led to new opportunities for service development, and respite options. Many agencies already had family-friendly respite, however vacation care, host family support, holiday camps, and after school care were added to the list of flexible options. New locally-based family support groups flourished, and a new wave of community involvement, swept life back into local disability supports.