Disability Advocacy Group Fights to Restore State Funding
9 November 2017 at 8:37 am
One of Australia’s oldest disability advocacy groups is set to have its funding cut next year by the New South Wales government, with the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme meaning that disability advocacy services will no longer be funded by the state.
IDEAS is one of Australia’s longest established independent information providers for people with disability, and has launched a campaign calling on the NSW government to reverse its decision to cut funding for the organisation in June 2018.
The petition said the NDIS “leaves disability-related organisations like IDEAS in a funding crisis”.
Diana Palmer, the CEO of IDEAS, explained the reason why the advocacy group was losing its funding.
“IDEAS is funded under the advocacy and information program in NSW, which is part of the disability services program. The federal government has agreed that the NDIS doesn’t include information advocacy services and that these services are a shared responsibility,” Palmer told Pro Bono News.
“However the NSW government hasn’t had a nuanced conversation around that and in their bilateral agreement they will hand all their disability services over at the end of the transition period, which for NSW is June 2018.
“For us, that means that NSW will no longer fund IDEAS, even though we have received funding for many years, since the 1980s. In that time, over the phone alone, we have helped around 6.7 million people.”
Palmer said that the transition to the NDIS made disability information and advocacy services like IDEAS “more important than ever”.
“The Productivity Commission report agreed that state jurisdictions shouldn’t be pulling out too soon, and that they need to keep those supports in place to allow for the better transition to the NDIS in its infancy, so people have access to that independent information,” she said.
“It’s especially important now, because we’re in a major period of change. There are still people who have very little knowledge of the NDIS, and what it actually could do for them.
“There’s also a majority of people with disability who won’t actually be eligible for a funded package under the NDIS. Those people need good quality information and advocacy support to allow them to access services to help them in their daily lives.”
She added that the funding cut could dramatically affect IDEAS’ ability to function.
“The core function of providing unbiased, accurate and verified information for people, from a trusted and credible source is under threat,” she said.
“If we aren’t able to find a core stream of income by July next year, we won’t able to maintain the database that we’ve been building over the last 30 years that supports people with disability to make informed decisions.”
Dougie Herd, a NSW disability advocate, said that the valuable information IDEAS provided was “desperately needed”.
“To live the best life possible as a person with disability, nothing is more important than information that’s reliable and comes from a trustworthy source. IDEAS has been providing this vital information for decades,” Herd said.
“It’s an organisation that understands the needs, hopes and wishes of people with disability and their families. It would be a tragedy if we lost that valuable resource, because it’s desperately needed.”
Palmer said the NSW government needed to understand the dire consequences this funding cut would have for people with disability.
“We need the premier of NSW to understand the effect that the current defunding of these organisations will have on people with disabilities in the state,” she said.
“The impact of withdrawing advocacy and information across NSW is going to be very dire for people with disability.”
The NSW disability services minister, Ray Williams, was unavailable for comment, but a Department of Family and Community Services spokesperson told Pro Bono News that there would be “more funding available for disability advocacy supports than ever before”.
“The NSW government’s commitment to the NDIS has been clear since 2012. That includes the commitment that NSW will no longer fund specialist disability supports, including specific disability advocacy services, under the full scheme NDIS. The disability sector strongly supported the introduction of the NDIS,” the spokesperson said.
“NSW has provided funding of about $35 million over three years to June 2018 to a variety of providers of specialist disability advocacy and information services. On top of this, NSW has provided funding of $10.6 million to 42 providers of specialist disability advocacy and information services, under the three-year funding agreement.
“It is not correct that advocacy services will be not funded under the NDIS, and it does not mean that advocacy services will disappear. Under the NDIS, there will be more funding available for disability advocacy supports than ever before.”
The department also said that “the voices of people with disability will continue to be heard”.
“Under the NDIS, people with disability are able to access supports that encourage and assist individuals to achieve and maintain their rights and to achieve equity of access and participation in the community… we have an obligation to ensure that funding is directed to those in need, while avoiding unnecessary duplication between the state and territory governments and the Commonwealth,” the spokesperson said.
“There will be no change in NSW government investment in advocacy supports that provide assistance to vulnerable people, including people with disability, to engage with mainstream services such as health, mental health, housing and education.
“The voices of people with disability will continue to be heard. The NSW Disability Inclusion Act, passed in 2014, means that the NSW Disability Council and its supporting groups will continue to represent people with disability and provide advice to government on emerging issues impacting on community access and inclusion.”