Disability Advocacy in NSW Under Threat
3 October 2018 at 5:16 pm
Disability advocacy groups in New South Wales face an uncertain future, with the state government set to cut all advocacy funding leaving a gap in support for the disability community.
The NSW government plans to stop funding advocacy organisations by 2020, despite the workload for advocacy groups increasing between 50 and 100 per cent since 2016.
Disability advocates say this will force many advocacy services to close and leave the 90 per cent of NSW’s disability community not eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme with little to no access to support.
“Without disability advocacy services many people with disability will fall through the gaps, ending up in hospital, homeless or in the legal system,” NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance spokesperson Serena Ovens said.
— NSWAdvocacyAlliance (@StandByMeNSW) October 2, 2018
The organisations get on average 41 per cent of their total funding from the state government.
Disability Advocacy NSW executive officer Mark Grierson told Pro Bono News his organisation’s services would take a hit because of the cuts, with at least three offices set to close.
The NSW government has committed almost all its disability services spending to the NDIS, but Grierson said advocacy funding was still as important as ever.
“The NDIS isn’t an oasis in the desert that’s going to fix everything. People with disability outside the NDIS still need support from advocacy services as well as services like in mental health,” Grierson said.
“If you lose advocates, it means when there’s glitches in the system there’ll be no one specific to go to who will be on the person with disability’s side to sort it out.”
— PWD Australia (PWDA) (@PWDAustralia) October 2, 2018
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced in April that up to $26 million would be available for advocacy services until 2020.
Disability groups have asked the government not only to make advocacy funding ongoing, but for it to be increased to $20 million a year.
Minister for Disability Services Ray Williams told Pro Bono News he recognised the ongoing role of advocacy to support people with disability in NSW.
“We will continue to meet with advocacy groups and people with disabilities to understand their ongoing needs and support going forward,” Williams said.
The NSW government also pointed out it has a free disability service, Ability Links, which supports all people with disability aged 7 to 64.
But Ovens said only long-term sustainable funding for advocacy would address the disability community’s concerns.
“The simple fact is that if the Berejiklian government pushes ahead with its funding cut, services across the state will be forced to close their doors,” she said.
“To suggest that everything will be okay and that we shouldn’t worry ourselves about it is an insult to the 1.3 million people with disability in NSW who are going to be robbed of their vital services.”