Monday, 5th January 2015 at 11:39 am
Peak disability support organisations have been forced to either close their doors or reduce services and retrench staff thanks to Federal Government funding cuts.
CEO of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO), Matthew Wright, said 10 peak organisations run by people with disability will be left with no choice but to either close their doors or reduce services, with seven organisations subject to drastic funding cuts by outgoing Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews.
Wright said he had requested an urgent meeting with new Social Services Minister Scott Morrison to discuss the funding cuts.
He said together the disability peak bodies represent over 90 per cent of Australians with disability and 83 per cent of the identified disability groups in Australia.
“The organisations have over 200,000 supporters, including 140 organisations, consumer groups, service providers and carer associations.
“Organisations with over 200 combined years of expertise will be forced to shut their doors in three months time – leaving people who are blind, deaf, hearing impaired, people with intellectual disability, people with brain injury, people with autism and people with physical disabilities with no voice and no specialist representation,” Wright said.
“This expertise cannot be replicated. Once it’s lost, it’s lost. Our organisations have actively engaged in the Government’s workforce agenda, however this decision leaves our 200,000 constituents with a disability and their 140 supportive organisations out in the cold.
“We believe that this decision, which reflects a misunderstanding of people with disability, will have significant ramifications on the ability of the Government to successfully implement reform for people with disability, including changes to income support and real efforts to increase economic participation.
“Without specific representation, people with disability will be vulnerable to adverse outcomes in these areas and more.”
According to AFDO the consumer organisations that have been defunded or not funded to represent the specialist voice of people with disability under Department of Social Services contracts include:
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia
Blind Citizens Australia
Brain Injury Australia
Deafness Forum of Australia
Down Syndrome Australia
National Council on Intellectual Disability
Physical Disability Australia
Short Statured People of Australia
In December Pro Bono Australia News reported that a number of peak bodies and advocacy groups had learned that they were defunded as part of the $240 million budget cuts to social services – two days before Christmas.
The Federal Government under Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews introduced a new application process in May.
The new grants arrangements collapsed the original 18 grant programs into seven larger programs. Kevin Andrews said at the time the new grants would include longer-term agreements that would provide greater certainty for the planning of services.
The Minister said as part of the new arrangements, the Government would roll out a streamlined system that added three newly broad-banded programs – Families and Communities, Housing and Homelessness, Disability, Mental Health and Carers – to complement those already existing in Ageing and Aged Care.
However the Federal Government was forced to extend the current funding arrangements in October for more than 5000 welfare charities for up to four months as it tried to respond to an “avalanche” of applications.
A Senate Estimates Committee hearing in Canberra was told that the Social Services Department received 5,572 applications from welfare groups seeking $3.9 billion over four years when there is just $800 million available after cuts to the program budget.