Funding Cuts to Disability Communication Service a ‘Smack in the Face’
4 December 2018 at 8:46 am
State government funding cuts to a South Australian service helping people with disability access the legal system will leave vulnerable people without a voice in police interviews or court, a disability advocates warn.
The Communication Partner Service, run by Uniting Communities, had its funding slashed in the September state budget, with money predicted to dry up in February 2020.
Uniting Communities said the majority of those accessing the service were people with severe communication disabilities dealing with physical sexual assault cases, and the funding cuts would mean they no longer were able able to access or understand the legal system.
Disability rights political group, Dignity Party, once again called for the government to reverse its decision, and said it had made a mockery of celebrations on International Day of People With Disability (3 December).
“This is a smack in the face for the disability sector,” Dignity Party president Rick Neagle said.
He said when the funding ceased, it would leave adults and children without a voice in police interviews or court.
“This state has seen what happens when vulnerable people cannot give evidence. We know that cases against alleged paedophiles and other abusers will collapse and offenders go free,” he said.
Mark Henley, Uniting Communities advocacy manager, told Pro Bono News the looming cuts had created an environment of uncertainty about what the future of the program was.
“We’re still doing our best to provide the service… but It’s certainly raised questions about what will happen to the expertise that’s being developed in the service, and what alternatives the state government has in mind,” Henley said.
He said IDPWD was not just about celebrating, but also the opportunity to mark what needed to be done.
“The decision around defunding the communication service is an example of how we’ve still got some progress to be made around ensuring that people with disabilities have access to services that the rest of us take for granted,” he said.
Christine, whose step son was abused by notorious paedophile school bus driver Brian Perkins, said the the funding cuts would have a detrimental impact on victims and families.
“Many parents of children and adults with a disability have been hanging onto the idea that our kids would be safe now, but the mat has been pulled out from under us,” Christine said.
“The funding is a pittance compared to what it will cost families and the government when the next horror comes to light.”
Henley said he Uniting Communities would continue talks with the state government, and was confident they would review the decision.
“There’s more at stake here than the money,” he said.
The SA minister for human services and disability did not respond to Pro Bono News’ request for comment.