“Perilous position”: Ageing and Disability Commission unable to fulfil statutory functions due to severe underfunding.
Extraordinary evidence provided to a Budget Estimates hearing this afternoon by the Ageing and Disability Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald AM in response to questioning by Abigail Boyd, Greens spokesperson on Disability and Older People, has exposed the fact that the Ageing and Disability Commission has been operating at a deficit since its establishment in 2019.
Mr Fitzgerald stated that the funding received by the Commission was a cut of 60 per cent, from the initial indicative budget of $29 million over four years, cut to $13.6 million over four years when the Commission was actually established. Mr Fitzgerald stated that the Commission has never been provided with a budget sufficient to allow it to undertake its statutory functions.
He went on, “Going forward, there is an immediate cut of 25 per cent cut to the budget of the ADC at the end of this financial year, and a 40 per cent cut against anticipated demand”.
Meanwhile, statutory reporting of abuse as a result of complaints made to the Commission continues to increase, showing significant demand for their services.
Mr Fitzgerald further stated that “the financial position of the Commission is precarious and has been for some time”, and that the Commission is in a “perilous position”.
According to evidence provided by Mr Fitzgerald, for the Commission to do its job, the core of the Commission requires an additional $6.9 million over three years, and the Official Community Visitors Scheme requires $2.1 million over three years.
In response, Ms Boyd has said, “The Ageing and Disability Commission was set up just 3 years ago by a Coalition Government that was patting itself on the back for taking action to address growing incidents of abuse and neglect of older people and people with a disability. Now we discover that they were never serious about taking action, they underfunded the Commission from the beginning.
“There’s no other way to put it, the Government has set the Commission up to fail. What sort of message does this send to older people and people with disability?
“We are talking about an additional $3 million a year to allow the Commission to do its job of preventing abuse and neglect of some of the most vulnerable people in our State. But for a Coalition Government that thinks nothing of throwing $25 million at a flag pole without any concrete plans, $3 million to adequately fund a Commission as vital as this one is apparently money they just can’t find.
“Whether it’s a rejection of minimum accessibility standards, a refusal to guarantee Auslan interpretation at press conferences, a failure to meet our public transport accessibility obligations under a 20-year old National agreement, or now this, this Government shows time and time again that it doesn’t see people with disability or older people as a priority.
“The Government must now right its wrongs and commit to funding the Commission properly in line with the legislation Parliament voted on just 3 years ago.”