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In the first project of its kind in Australia, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and Cerebral Palsy Australia examined therapy and equipment needs among people with cerebral palsy and related conditions.
The report, Therapy and equipment needs of people with cerebral palsy and like disabilities in Australia, showed that people with cerebral palsy and similar disabilities, and their carers, found both therapy and equipment to be greatly beneficial in terms of minimising the impact of disability and facilitating greater independence and participation in society.
The AIHW's Dr Xingyan Wen, who headed the project team, said 'People with cerebral palsy and like disabilities commonly use physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.
'Many people also use specialised equipment, such as walking frames, wheelchairs, splints, adjustable beds, communication devices and self-care aids,' he said.
There were approximately 33,800 people in Australia in 2003 with cerebral palsy or similar disabilities.
The majority of those lived in households, while 2,000 lived in institutional settings. Of those living in households, 26,500 needed help with activities, such as self care, mobility or communication.
While many of their needs were met, people with cerebral palsy, their families and therapists, also reported unmet need in a number of areas, as well as long waiting times for accessing therapy and equipment.
Dr Wen also said that many people did not have enough access to 'hands on' therapy, especially physiotherapy, social work, psychology and family support.
'Unmet need was particularly high for services that support participation, especially in employment and social activities, and appear to be more of an issue for people living in non-metropolitan or lower socioeconomic areas, he said.
To come up with estimates of the cost of meeting unmet need for therapy nationally, the researchers combined available data sources in three different ways, using different assumptions. The estimates range from $22.5 million to $54.8 million per annum.
Dr Wen said, 'Cerebral Palsy Australia, clients, their families and therapists need to be acknowledged for providing valuable personal and professional advice to the AIHW team.
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