Budget changes little for people with disability
30 March 2022 at 1:25 pm
The 2022 federal budget carries little fundamental change for Australians living with a disability, or the sector working with them.
People living with disability gain little in real terms from Tuesday evening’s budget announcement.
While $7.3 million over two years has been allocated to create stronger support measures – including $1.2 million for Amaze Incorporated and Autism Awareness Australia to expand the Autism What’s Next website to guide families post-diagnosis – the major policy challenges for the sector remain roundly unaddressed according to sector advocates.
While the government reiterated its commitment to a fully-funded NDIS, its failure to guarantee it won’t continue to cut funding to individual plans within the scheme remains a major issue.
According to People with Disability Australia (PWDA), a peak body that advocates for people living with disability, appeals from NDIS participants appealing adverse decisions have risen 300 per cent in the last six months, adding adverse pressure to publicly funded disability advocates.
There was no funding increase for disability support advocates in Tuesday evening’s budget.
A statement released by PWDA on budget night calls the measures “a lean, mean budget for people with disability, their families and carers”, and is roundly critical of the government’s approach to the NDIS.
“They tried to kneecap our NDIS packages with independent assessments and are continuing with their plan to hollow out the NDIS by massively increasing adverse decisions against participants and clawing back payments,” said Samantha Connor, president of PWDA.
The government continues to seek solutions for people with living disability by creating incentives for small business through its disability employment services (DES) program, a privately delivered job-seeker initiative originally rolled out in 2010 and re-formed in 2018.
While this year’s budget allocated $44.6 million to businesses who employed mature age job seekers through the scheme, DES continues to draw criticism from the employment services sector responsible for delivering it on the ground. According to the annual National Disability Services survey conducted in 2021, 56 per cent of DES providers disagreed with the program’s direction, and 76 per cent agreed the administration of the service was too unwieldy.
A long-promised initiative to introduce digital services for DES participants to allow greater self-management did not materialise in Tuesday’s budget.
However, the government did allocate $6.1 million over two years to a national advertising program to promote a re-branded version of the WorkAble program, now known as The Field, that is designed to help jobseekers with disability find work.
PWDA also cited the lack of targeted support to ensure COVID safety for people with disability, and lack of planning to ensure the safety of people with disability in emergencies such as natural disasters as budget night disappointments.
“The additional funding we were seeking in relation to these issues would have significantly improved the health and safety of people with disability across Australia,” the organisation said in a budget night statement.
“However, the government has clearly decided to short-change people with disability once again with no new funding commitments of any significance”.
Our 2022 budget coverage is brought to you by Fifty Acres.