Disability Advocacy Funding Failure
9 March 2017 at 4:16 pm
The future of many disability advocacy organisations is under threat with the expected loss of NSW government funding from July 2018 as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) continues to roll out nationally.
Under the terms of NSW’s NDIS deal with the federal government, the state will hand over all its disability budget to the Commonwealth from 1 July 2018.
The CEO of Disability Advocacy NSW, which is one of the largest disability advocacy services in the state, is Mark Grierson. He told Pro Bono News that the NDIS definition of disability support excluded advocacy and health-related services.
“We have been flagging this problem to the state government for two years, but have got nowhere,” Grierson said.
“It is potentially very serious because the NDIS is rolling out in NSW the quickest. Some of these smaller organisations are totally funded by the NSW government, as are a number of other services that are partly funded by the NSW government.
“For our organisation, our budget is about $2.6 million dollars and some $700,000 is from the state government. You can imagine that that is going to have a big impact.
“Another service affected is the Intellectual Disability Rights Service (IDRS) and I think they get about $1 million from the state government towards advocacy.
“It’s like throwing the baby out with the bath water. We have been in there fighting for the NDIS to happen as advocates for people with disabilities but now it seems like the government seems to think [that] because the NDIS is here you don’t need advocates anymore,” he said.
Grierson said that the NDIS has meant that their work-load has actually increased.
“Many of our issues aren’t about the NDIS, which is a really important point because the NDIS will take up a lot of our time but if you also have a discrimination matter, or a legal matter, or an accomodation matter, or a health care matter, or a guardianship matter, all of those things are outside and will always be outside the NDIS,” he said.
Disability Advocacy NSW supports about 1,800 people a year.
“We have services all across the state and each of these services will be affected. Clearly we have mapped out a worse case scenario but we are hoping there will be alternatives to happen,” Grierson said.
He said the situation is Bathurst and Dubbo was a good example.
“In the case we don’t get alternative funding the service to these areas will disappear. We won’t be able to keep it going on its own,” he said.
“Well, 30 June is our deadline basically… [we] will have to close several regional offices and make staff redundant from next year without the current state government funds.
“I’ve done all the right things and clearly done my homework and tried to talk to all the relevant ministers but I didn’t get a response. It’s a very small pot of money, and parts of the state are going to be empty of advocacy all together when this happens.
“The standard response in NSW now is that all our money is going to the NDIS. Part of it is an argument between the state and federal governments around funding advocacy as well.”
Grierson said the advocacy agencies were “caught in the crossfire when these sort of things happen”.
“But the real problem for us is that… many organisations have had to change the way they operate under the NDIS and that’s fair enough and they get paid by the hour, by the service they provide the client. But there is not that option for us because there is no line item in the NDIS for advocacy. So we are not even being given a choice to change,” he said.
“There are some things that we could go for funding for but they are not advocacy. It wouldn’t cover the work we do now.
“We are a very professional group. We have tried to regroup and merge with other services to make ourselves more efficient. We have done all the right things but we are faced with this funding cliff much like the community legal centres.”
Grierson pointed to the Victoria government as an example of a state government that has injected more money based on the advocacy needs around the NDIS.
“I think it’s as much as $10 million,” he said.
“NSW is completely withdrawing.
“We would like the federal government to consider taking up this funding or to get the NSW government to reconsider.”
On the federal funding side, the Department of Social Services has been reviewing the National Disability Advocacy Program with ongoing consultation planned during the first part of 2017.
The national peak body for disability advocacy organisations is Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA) which made a submission to the review calling on the federal government and state and territory governments to commit additional funding for the provision of independent advocacy.
“This is urgently required to provide sufficient supply of independent advocacy and to ensure that further gaps in advocacy provision do not develop while the NDIS rolls out in all states and territories,” DANA CEO Mary Mallett said in the submission.
“The legitimate, collective voice of the independent advocacy organisations requires ongoing funding that acknowledges the value of this specific, detailed, and wide-ranging perspective.”