Disability groups fight for QLD advocacy funding
11 March 2021 at 5:46 pm
Advocates say Queensland risks being the only Australian jurisdiction that does not fund advocacy services
Queensland disability groups are urging the state government to extend advocacy funding, warning that thousands of people with disability could be left without support when funding ceases in June.
The Queensland government currently provides $4.9 million to fund independent disability advocacy services, but funding is set to end on 30 June with no further commitment on offer.
Now advocacy groups across the state have joined forces to form the QLD Disability Advocacy Alliance, and launch a new campaign – Stand with us.
Alliance spokesperson Geoff Rowe, the CEO of ADA Australia, told Pro Bono News a loss of funding would cost 90 sector jobs, and put 6,000 people at risk of losing advocacy support every year.
He said the failure to commit to advocacy funding stemmed partly from a view that the National Disability Insurance Scheme had “fixed” disability issues in Queensland – despite only around 10 per cent of the state’s disability community accessing the scheme.
He said there was also a desire to reduce government spending given there was a tight state budget.
“A decision to remove funding for disability advocacy is a very short-sighted decision,” Rowe said.
“Because we know from research that good advocacy generally means that people with a disability end up with good outcomes and that actually saves government money.”
Disability advocacy funding has been a constant battle for disability groups in recent years, with many state and territory governments hesitant to fund advocacy services under the full rollout of the NDIS.
In New South Wales, advocacy groups recently won a long-fought campaign to continue advocacy funding for the next three years.
Rowe said if the Queensland government fails to step up, it will leave the state in an unenviable position compared with the rest of the country.
“The research we’ve done suggests that if Queensland withdraws state funding, they’ll be the only jurisdiction in Australia that is not funding disability advocacy services,” he said.
“And given Queensland recently introduced a Human Rights Act… it does seem odd that one of the few mechanisms available to protect the rights of some of the most vulnerable Queenslanders is being withdrawn.”
Rowe said advocates met with the Minister for Disability Services Craig Crawford a couple of weeks ago, where they were told the budget was close to being finalised and there was no provision for future advocacy funding.
He said the recent success of advocacy groups in NSW left him optimistic they could still turn things around.
“I’m hoping we will be heard. There’s too much at risk of being lost if nothing is done,” he said.
“Based on [current figures], there’s potentially 6,000 people with a disability next year who won’t get access to advocacy support… And then that number will just continue to grow in coming years.”
Minister Crawford told Pro Bono News that a key priority for the state government was building inclusive communities and he noted advocacy could be a vital support for people with disability.
But he did not offer any commitment to renew government funding.
“A new state disability plan will be developed in line with the new National Disability Strategy due to be released in 2021,” Crawford said.
“The Commonwealth is currently leading a demand and gap analysis of independent disability advocacy and decision-making supports. Findings of this work will inform discussions on future arrangements for funding.”