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NSW Government Commits to Disability Advocacy Funding

6 April 2018 at 2:51 pm
Luke Michael
New South Wales disability advocates have breathed a “collective sigh of relief”, after the state government backflipped on plans to cut funding for disability advocacy groups.

Luke Michael | 6 April 2018 at 2:51 pm


NSW Government Commits to Disability Advocacy Funding
6 April 2018 at 2:51 pm

New South Wales disability advocates have breathed a “collective sigh of relief”, after the state government backflipped on plans to cut funding for disability advocacy groups.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Disability Services Ray Williams announced on Friday that up to $26 million would be available for advocacy services until 2020.

The current funding for disability advocacy services in NSW was set to expire on 30 June 2018, and the state government had earlier indicated that they would no longer fund specific disability advocacy services under the full scheme National Disability Insurance Scheme.

This led the NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance to launch the Stand By Me campaign, which brought together disability advocacy, information and peak representative organisations to lobby for continued funding for these services.

The NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance said they welcomed the NSW government’s commitment for continued funding for disability advocacy.

“You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief across the state when we woke to the news that our disability representative organisations and independent advocacy and information services will be able to continue to operate thanks to this funding commitment,” Physical Disability Council of New South Wales executive officer Serena Ovens said.

“It is fantastic that the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has acted to address the funding issues.

“People with disability will continue to have somewhere to turn if they’re not getting a fair go, thanks to the state government confirming that it will provide $26 million in funding over the next two years for disability advocacy services.”

Ovens said this was “a huge win for people with disability in NSW”.

“People with disability rely on disability advocacy to make sure they’re getting a fair deal – whether it’s advocating for improved access on public transport, protecting workplace rights, or dealing with horrific cases of abuse, exploitation or discrimination,” she said.

“Advocacy organisations are the go-to for people with disability who are trying to negotiate the new NDIS system. It’s never been more important to have organisations where people with disability can help each other navigate the system.

“People with disability have been rightly very worried about the potential loss of our voice in the NSW community. We’ve had rallies, we’ve been visiting MPs, people have been writing postcards to the premier – the response from the people with disability and the community broadly has been overwhelming.”

Mark Grierson, the executive officer of Disability Advocacy NSW, told Pro Bono News he was pleasantly surprised by the funding announcement.

“We were planning some events at Parliament House next week and all over regional New South Wales in a few weeks after that. So we weren’t convinced that they were going to change their mind,” Grierson said.

“But we are very happy to hear the news about the premier reversing her plans to cut advocacy funds.”

Grierson said the continued funding would have a significant impact on disability advocacy organisations across the state.

“Well firstly, all the worried clients we have won’t have to worry anymore. That’s the main thing,” he said.

“And also we won’t have to close offices and reduce staff numbers. So that’s really exciting for us so we can get back to doing our main work rather than having to try and lobby about these cuts.”

Grierson added that while the NDIS had changed the role of disability advocacy groups in some ways, the Stand By Me campaign aimed to highlight that a lot of disability advocacy work was not related to the scheme.

“About 90 per cent of the disability community don’t use the NDIS and they still have issues where they need support,” he said.

“And even the people who use the NDIS have issues related to education, health, justice and things like that, which are not related to the NDIS.

“Hopefully we got that message through to the government and that’s why they’ve changed their mind.”

While the government has committed to continued funding, Ovens noted that the specifics of the funding now needed to be discussed with the NSW government.

“We will still, of course, need to go through the fine detail of the funding with the state government, but the information we have so far is very positive,” she said.

Grierson said there was “some devil in the detail” that needed to be worked out.

“I haven’t got all the full details yet but there’s some information that they’re going to reduce the funding the advocacy services get if they’re successful with ILC [Information, Linkages and Capacity Building] funding,” he said.

“Because that’s been the government’s argument all along about advocacy, but it’s really only the start of advocacy really, providing information, linking people up and building their capacity. The rest of it will just be left out.

“So we have to see how that pans out when we get the details. But I’m hoping that given the money that’s been set aside for the next two years, it should keep the advocacy services going and do a good job for people with disability.”

Berejiklian said the NSW government was committed to successfully transitioning supports and services to the NDIS for people with disability.

“During a time of major change for people with disability, the NSW government is committed to making the transition to the NDIS as smooth as possible,” Berejiklian said.

“We understand the transition has created concerns for people with disability and I want to assure the community we have been listening to those concerns.

“That is why we have set aside this funding. It will make sure people with disability can continue to access services and information, particularly in regional and rural communities.”

Williams said a key focus of the NSW funding would be on activities that supported inclusion of people with disability in their local communities.

“This is the largest social reform since Medicare and it’s important we get it right for people with disability,” Williams said.

“We will continue to work with the Commonwealth government to ensure the NDIS is successful and sustainable in NSW.”  

This announcement comes after the federal government provided $60 million of disability advocacy funding in August last year, to support disability advocacy services until 2020.

Then Social Services Minister Christian Porter said at the time that state governments should continue to support disability advocacy funding under the full scheme NDIS.

“The Commonwealth calls on other states and territories to meet their commitments to people with disability through the NDS [National Disability Strategy] by committing to ongoing support for advocacy under the NDIS,” Porter said.

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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