Disability advocates calls for more support amid funding concerns
Disability advocates and a raft of NSW politicians are demanding that ongoing funding be provided for advocacy services amid concerns vital support will be cut off.
Hundreds of people attended a rally to call for the state government to commit to the permanent funding for disability advocate organisations. This is amid calls for a royal commission into the disability sector, expected to review prominent issues.
NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance Chief, Serena Ovens, said people with a disability rely on advocacy services to make sure they are getting a fair trial: “We need advocacy funding now and always, so post-2020 into the future. People with a disability deserve the right to ensure that they have funding whenever they need help.”
In 2017, the government confirmed funding for the services would end in June 2018 and will be redirected to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
However, in April of last year, the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the Minister for Disability Services, Ray Williams, announced up to $26 million for advocacy until 2020 to provide access to these services during the transition to the NDIS.
Without funding beyond this time, the sector is concerned services will be forced to close and would leave people without access to vital support.
The NDIS clearly states it will not fund individual or systematic advocacy, said Ovens.
Wendy de Meyrick, who attended the rally, said she has a 48-year-old blind son who has a brain injury among other disabilities: “Without advocacy, I don’t think that I’d be able to keep going – and advocacy from people who really understand the issues.”
On Sunday, Williams confirmed services can expect to receive the same funding for 2019/20 they received in 2018/19: “The funding ensures people with disability in NSW are fully supported during implementation of the NDIS. It recognises that it will take some time for the Commonwealth-led advocacy funding programs to reach maturity.”
The Coalition is “proactively meeting with advocacy organisation to ensure we address any gaps that arise in the lead up to 2020 and beyond”.
Funding from the National Disability Advocacy Program, separate to the NDIS, can be applied to citizen, family, individual, legal, self and systemic advocacy.
The federal government is providing $60 million in funding to extend the NDAP and other advocacy programs to June 2020. The National Disability Insurance Agency has also committed a grant round of $398 million over three years until 2022.