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Disability advocates gear up to fight for more than the NDIS

20 March 2019 at 5:32 pm
Maggie Coggan
Australia’s disability policy beyond 2020 must focus on more than the National Disability Insurance Scheme and actually be implemented, advocates say in the lead up to a community consultation period to shape policy for the next 10 years.  

Maggie Coggan | 20 March 2019 at 5:32 pm


Disability advocates gear up to fight for more than the NDIS
20 March 2019 at 5:32 pm

Australia’s disability policy beyond 2020 must focus on more than the National Disability Insurance Scheme and actually be implemented, advocates say in the lead up to a community consultation period to shape policy for the next 10 years.  

Federal social services minister Paul Fletcher announced on Tuesday that people with disability and those involved in the disability community will have the opportunity to take part in developing the National Disability Strategy to direct policy from 2020 onwards.

An open public survey, face-to-face community workshops in all states and territories, and an online forum will take place between April and June as part of the consultation process.  

Fletcher said the framework was meant to create a more inclusive approach for policy and programs so people with disability can participate in all areas of life.

“Ten years ago the launch of the first National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 paved the way for major changes to the disability landscape in Australia,” Fletcher said.

“With one-in-five Australians living with disability, it is critical for all Australians, and particularly those with a lived experience of disability, to have their say about the future policies of our nation.”

He said it was important community feedback was factored into future-policy making.

“We want to provide an opportunity for the more than four million people with disability, as well as those who love and support them, to shape the new strategy and tell us what is important to people with disability,” he said.

Kirsten Deane, Everybody Counts campaign manager, said a focus for the consultation period will be highlighting the lack of policy progress other than the NDIS, covering areas such as health, education, employment and transport.  

“If we’re really going to get any action in closing the gap in life outcomes between people with disability and people without a disability in the Australian community, we’ve got to have much more focused attention on everything that fits outside the NDIS,” Deane told Pro Bono News.

CEO of House With No Steps Andrew Richardson told Pro Bono News while he wanted to see a continuing focus on fully rolling out the NDIS, it had in some ways been “all consuming” of disability policy.

“[The NDIS is] a huge and valuable social reform, but you could argue there hasn’t been as much focus as we would have liked to see on mainstream government services being more inclusive and supportive of people with a disability,” he said.

“There are small steps happening, but there doesn’t seem a whole lot of accountability at the agency level outside of disability, to make large steps forward in inclusion of people with disability.”

Deane also said while the last round of consultations for the first strategy document in 2010 were “really comprehensive” and it was a good document with many valuable recommendations, it fell down because very little was actually implemented.

“If you look at the last 10 years, apart from the NDIS we’ve made very little progress in all the other areas that are identified in the strategy,” she said.  

“And it’s not just us that thinks that. The recent review by the Productivity Commission into the National Disability Agreement also came to the conclusion that you could point to very little progress for people with disability in this country.”          

Romola Hollywood, People with Disability Australia (PWDA) director of policy and advocacy, echoed Dean’s views and told Pro Bono News that while the announcement was positive, resourcing and actual implementation had fallen short of the agreed goals.    

“This needs to change. We believe a robust and inclusive consultation process is a critical first step to achieving change,” Hollywood said.

The government said it would consider the findings from the Productivity Commission’s report, which Hollywood welcomed.

“The Productivity Commission’s report has highlighted the need to significantly strengthen the ways in which different levels of government need to work together to improve access to mainstream services and create communities that include all of us,” she said.

She said PWDA would be involved in the upcoming consultations, and urged all people with disability to participate to make sure issues with transport, justice, health and education were included in the strategy.    

Richardson added that going forward, it was not just the responsibility of the disability sector to make sure people with disability were included in the community.   

“This is about whole of community, and whole of government working through how best to include and embrace people with disability in all aspects of life,” he said.

“All organisations that care about the human rights and wellbeing of people with disability need to be speaking up about the broader systemic issues that need to be confronted, to ensure that people with a disability can have a good life.”

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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