Disability Gateway opens for business
1 February 2021 at 6:01 pm
This federally-funded service aims to be a one-stop shop for disability information and services
Disability groups have welcomed the launch of a national disability information gateway but there are fears this could put further strain on already stretched independent advocacy services.
The Disability Gateway is a federally-funded service that features information to help people with disability, their family, friends and carers find support in areas such as housing, transport and education.
It was announced in May 2019, as part of the Coalition government’s election plan for people with disability, but was only officially launched last week.
The gateway will be operated by the Benevolent Society, which is managing the 1800 643 787 Disability Gateway information and COVID Hotline number.
Diana Palmer, the executive officer of independent disability information provider IDEAS, welcomed the roll out of the gateway.
“Access to accurate information services has been requested by people with disabilities and their families and carers for more than a decade and it’s something we have heard consistently across the 30 years we’ve been in operation,” Palmer said.
It has also been welcomed by Mary Mallett, the CEO of Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA).
Mallett told Pro Bono News that she hoped the gateway will refer people to disability advocacy services when needed.
But she said this could pose problems for advocacy services, many of which were already at capacity around the country.
“This new gateway will hopefully be directing people towards advocacy organisations, however the advocacy sector is already at capacity and may find it difficult to help these people,” Mallett said.
Disability advocacy funding has been a battleground ever since the National Disability Insurance Scheme was introduced.
While this landmark scheme shifted most disability funding to a market model where funding increases as demand does, advocacy services remain supported through block funding.
Advocacy services have in recent years fought for long-term funding from state and territory governments – with varying degrees of success.
While the New South Wales government last November agreed to fund advocacy for the next three years, Queensland government advocacy funding is due to run out at the end of June this year.
Mallett said the launch of the gateway shows why it is vital that advocacy services receive more funding.
She said the whole advocacy sector was consistently under stress and struggled to meet demand.
“The gateway won’t do much to relieve that and it can’t. The gateway will provide some people with information. And for some people, it will lead them back to the advocacy sector that is already stretched,” she said.
“What this points to is that there is a need for additional resourcing and funding of the disability advocacy sector.”
You can check out the Disability Gateway here.