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Future Uncertain for Disability Organisations Following Funding Cuts

19 September 2017 at 8:29 am
Wendy Williams
Disability representative organisations (DRO) have launched a campaign to #SavePDA amid claims the not for profit and its partner organisations in the national peaks consortium could go out of business following changes to government funding.

Wendy Williams | 19 September 2017 at 8:29 am


Future Uncertain for Disability Organisations Following Funding Cuts
19 September 2017 at 8:29 am

Disability representative organisations (DRO) have launched a campaign to #SavePDA amid claims the not for profit and its partner organisations in the national peaks consortium could go out of business following changes to government funding.

According to Physical Disability Australia (PDA), a national peak disability people’s organisation, its capacity to work is threatened by funding cuts to the Department of Social Services (DSS) Disability and Carer Service Improvement Sector Support (DCSISS) Program.

The grassroots organisation, which was founded more than two decades ago and has more than 1,000 members, is calling on its members around the nation to write to their MPs and senators in Canberra to demand an increase in funding.

In a letter to government they wrote “PDA has hung on but it cannot survive for much longer”.

“A solution must be found by the government that will provide enough funding so that PDA and the other national peaks can continue to provide input to policy, and to attaining the goals of the NDIS and National Disability Strategy,” it said.

It comes after the Australian government established a new disability peaks funding model in 2016, that funds population based organisations to provide consultation and advocacy services.

Under the new model the government works with six funded disability peak bodies to “deliver its commitment to represent all people with disability and disability service providers in the most effective, coordinated and collaborative way”.

The model includes four DPOs forming Disabled People’s Organisations Australia; People with Disability Australia (PWDA), First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN), National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA), and Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA).

Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) was also funded to represent children and young people (0-25 yrs) with disability. In addition, National Disability Services (NDS) was funded to represent service providers.

However, PDA, which does not charge membership fees and is entirely reliant on Commonwealth government and NDIA grants, failed to secure funding through the tender process.

According to the organisation, this year there is even less money available.

PDA manager Simon Burchill told Pro Bono News that it was “pretty likely” PDA would go out of business if there were no changes.

“There is a new funding round open now and PDA and its partners are in the process of putting in a bid for that but we’re not feeling very hopeful given that the overall funding available has been reduced and the competition is very fierce,” Burchill said.

“If the government has made up its mind that they would rather deal with four or five organisations that cover the population via EO type of criteria, rather than by diagnosis then that’s what’s going to happen.”

He said PDA had been able to secure some additional funding from the NDIA ILC program but this could not be used “for the core business of keeping the door open” but to deliver specific programs and activities.

Instead PDA claims a “modest investment” of $3.5 million would secure the future of PDA, it’s national peaks partners and the currently funded DROs.

“That would probably enable the government to fund the ones it currently does and the disability specific organisations as well,” Burchill said.

He said the work undertaken by PDA, which is run by people with physical disability for people with physical disability, would be missed should the business be forced to close.

“We’re involved in a number of activities to make sure that the government and the community and service providers are aware of the specific needs of people with physical disabilities, they’re somewhat different to people with intellectual disabilities and other situations,” he said.

“For instance we’ve recently put in a response into the Productivity Commission’s enquiry into costs, and while I can’t claim credit for it the draft report did reflect a number of the organisations views, which might not have been there otherwise.

“We’re also on a number of other committees, we’re on the Standards Australia technical subcommittee dealing with access to building standards and mobility aids and other disability related equipment.”

He said their members were shocked this might be happening and he hoped they would write to their local MPs “so they know that their constituents are affected by this decision”.

“We could probably survive another six months or so depending on what else happens, like I said, there are some funds available with the ILC program, we may be successful with our consortium partners in getting some of that money, but again that is to deliver certain outcomes, so whether or not I’ll be able to do as much work on the regular day to day PDA activities is up for looking at,” he said.

A spokesperson for DSS told Pro Bono News that PDA did “great work” in keeping the department and NDIA informed of the perspectives of Australians with physical disability.

They said although PDA was unsuccessful in the last open funding round held in late 2014, as a member organisation of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO), they may have benefited from project funding received to help AFDO’s member organisations prepare for the transition to the NDIS.

“The funding provided to AFDO for these projects was $600,000 in 2015-16 and a further $600,000 in 2016-17,” the spokesperson said.

“AFDO was recently successful in applying for funding through the National Disability Insurance Scheme Information, Linkages and Capacity Building program for the Disability Australia Hub Project ($465,500 GST exclusive), and the Practical Readiness Project ($272,090 GST exclusive). Physical Disability Australia may also benefit from this funding.”

The spokesperson said the government had maintained funding levels for DROs as part of its commitment to systemic advocacy under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“DROs have additional opportunities to access other funding. For example, there have been funding rounds as part of the roll out of the NDIS through which many DROs have sought and received funding, including a funding round currently open under the Implementing Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) – ILC National Readiness Grants from 2017-18 to 2018-19,” they said.

“It is anticipated that there will be further opportunities to apply for ILC funding in future grant rounds.

“DRO funding under the current Disability and Carer Service Improvement and Sector Support (DCSISS) program has been around $1.8m (GST exclusive) per year since 2015, and a similar amount is available under the new DRO Grant Opportunity which will run from 1 January 2018 to 30 June 2020.”

The spokesperson said PDA was “encouraged to apply for funding, either individually or as part of a consortium” in the new DRO grant opportunity which closes on 6 October 2017.

“The government is committed to a fair and open grants process,” they said.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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