NSW Disability Groups Gear Up for Advocacy Battle
24 January 2019 at 4:42 pm
New South Wales disability groups are launching their “biggest campaign yet” to fight for ongoing advocacy funding as they prepare for the upcoming state election in March.
The Stand by Me campaign is hosting a Sydney rally on 24 February, calling for the NSW government to commit to long-term funding for disability advocacy.
While the NSW government announced in April last year that advocacy services would be funded until 2020, the government has refused to commit to funding beyond then, despite the workload for advocacy groups increasing between 50 and 100 per cent since 2016.
We are planning for our biggest rally yet on February 24. Put the date in your diary and come along to show @GladysB & the NSW Government that disability #AdvocacyMatters! Details here: https://t.co/BsKg0n1Voe #StandByMe #DropInTheOcean @StandByMeNSW pic.twitter.com/9YOaz4BBfT
— Family Advocacy (@FamAdvocacyNSW) January 22, 2019
NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance spokesperson Dean Price said people with disability across the state were gearing up for the “biggest campaign yet”.
“Disability advocacy funding, for most organisations, will come to an end in less than 18 months from now, but some organisations are facing losing their funding this year,” Price said.
“By cutting this funding, the NSW government is neglecting a core piece of disability support infrastructure. It will create a giant gaping hole for millions of people with disability… if the NSW government doesn’t change its mind.”
The Stand by Me campaign said the state government had shut down the disability services sector, by closing down the Department of Ageing, Disability and Homecare (AHDC) – which leaves 90 per cent of people with disability in NSW with no access to disability services including advocacy.
Mark Grierson, the CEO of Disability Advocacy NSW, said the effects of funding cuts on his organisation were catastrophic.
“The Bathurst, Coffs Harbour and Armidale offices will close, with six advocates lost. The Newcastle office will lose two advocates. Each of these advocates helps at least 100 people with disability every year,” Grierson said.
Disability groups have asked the government not only to make advocacy funding ongoing, but for it to be increased to $20 million a year – a figure advocates said was a “drop in the ocean of NSW’s budget”.
Grierson told Pro Bono News that advocates wanted to make their voice heard before the state election campaign began.
“We’re not a political group, we just want whichever party that ends up in government to be supportive of reasonable funding for advocacy services in New South Wales,” he said.
“We just need some clarity on it. We’re not asking for a handout.”
NSW people with disability have their say: #AdvocacyMatters and they want @GladysB & @JohnBarilaroMP to get priorities right as advocacy funding is a #DropInTheOcean. #StandByMe and help by going to https://t.co/MgCQQrs3bf pic.twitter.com/XjM49jcYzd
— Disability Advocacy NSW (@advocacynsw) January 22, 2019
In October, NSW Disability Services Minister Ray Williams told Pro Bono News he recognised the role of advocacy to support people with disability and would continue to meet with advocacy groups to understand their ongoing needs.
But Grierson said talks between the government and disability groups had stalled, despite a NSW parliamentary inquiry into the NDIS implementation recommending that funding for advocacy services continue beyond 2020.
The state opposition meanwhile has pledged to support ongoing advocacy funding if elected.
Labor MP Kate Washington said in December that: “NSW Labor will fund disability advocacy services in perpetuity and ensure there’s a safety net to catch people before they fall.”
Grierson noted that unlike NSW, states like Victoria continued to support disability advocacy.
“There is a tender out in Victoria that actually increases funding for advocacy services. So not only are they maintaining current levels, they’re looking at new funding for the advocacy sector in Victoria and that’s quite a different approach to New South Wales,” he said.
The Stand by Me campaign released a toolkit this week to help people with disability and their families talk to their local MP about why disability advocacy is important to them.