PURPOSE: To investigate the role of philanthropic micro-grants (maximum of $10,000) in the provision of aids and equipment for adults (aged 18-65 years of age) with complex disabilities and examine key trends in aids and equipment requests.
METHOD: This study examined, through quantitative and qualitative analysis, aids and equipment requests (n = 371 individual applications as represented by 136 service organisations in three Australian states) received by a not-for-profit (NFP) organisation across five consecutive years of an innovative micro-grants scheme.
RESULTS: Findings highlight that living situation (living with family or living independently) significantly influences the nature of requests for respite, aids, equipment and home modifications. Specifically, people with complex disabilities living with their families require greater combined service provision (higher equipment need, respite support, home modifications) than those living independently (equipment need only). Type of disability did not influence request type. Qualitative data further indicated the "last resort" nature of respite requests, particularly for younger applicants (under 45 years of age) indicating critical unmet needs in the community.
CONCLUSIONS: Results demonstrate the vital role of NFP organisations and philanthropic funds in supporting daily lifestyle aids and equipment (including respite) that might otherwise not be funded for people with complex disabilities. Although preliminary in its scope and prior to implementation of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Australia, findings suggest both opportunity and risk to the uptake of community-based micro-grant funding: opportunity for users through the provision of essential aids and lifestyle supports, and risk through over-subscription and devolving of responsibility for critical support resources from public sector.
IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION: The aids and equipment needs of adults under the age of 65 appear to have been underestimated, poorly defined and under-serviced. Service users need more assistance for their carers (i.e. equipment to facilitate safe lifting, urgent breaks from care routines) as well as aids, equipment and modifications to help them to live a more normal life (e.g. going to the beach). Living situation (i.e. independently or with family) significantly influences the nature and extent of aids and equipment requested. Supporting adults up to the age of 65 to live more independently would positively influence carers and family, while at the same time providing opportunities for more targeted personal care supports. Philanthropic and not-for-profit schemes are helping to address these needs through micro-grant schemes for purchases under $10 000, but sustainability is questioned. The introduction of Australia's National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) presents an opportunity to consider the lifestyle needs of service users and carers, and determine who is best placed to address them.