Disability Advocacy Services Correspondence

Today Abigail successfully moved that all internal Government correspondence in relation to the funding of essential disability advocacy services be publicly released. This comes after months of refusing to commit long-term, secure funding for the sector. 

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (15:58:34): I move:

(1) That this House notes that:

(a)on 8 August 2019 this House called for the Government to ensure secure long-term funding for independent disability advocacy, information and peak representative organisations be provided as soon as possible;

(b)on 19 December 2019 the Ageing and Disability Commissioner in his report entitled Review into Disability Advocacy in NSW recommended "that the Government should provide a budget allocation of $13 million for FY 2020-21, and $14 million for FY 2021-22 … $15 million for FY 2022-23", noting that there was "a significant impact of no longterm, sustainable funding on the capacity of advocacy services, and ability for organisations to retain or upskill staff, evaluate programs and develop long-term working relationships";

(c)on 27 February 2020 this House called on the Government to provide certainty for independent disability advocacy services by publicly committing to adequately fund the sector on a long-term basis;

(d)independent disability advocacy organisations are still without secure long-term funding, with the Government currently agreeing to fund these organisations until the end of 2020 only; and

(e)the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services has failed to explain to the House or the community why secure long-term funding is still not being provided to independent disability advocacy organisations despite the motions passed by this House and despite the Ageing and Disability Commissioner's clear recommendations.

(2) That, under Standing Order 52, there be laid upon the table of the House within 21 days of the date of passing of this resolution the following documents created since 31 March 2019 in the possession, custody or control of the Department of Communities and Justice, the Treasury, the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services or the Treasurer relating to the funding for independent disability advocacy services:

(a)all documents, correspondence, and phone records concerning the motions of the House passed on 8 August 2019 and 27 February 2020 in relation to the funding of independent disability advocacy services;

(b)all documents, correspondence and phone records concerning the recommendations provided in the Ageing and Disability Commissioner's report entitled Review into Disability Advocacy in NSW;

(c) all documents, correspondence and phone records concerning all government decisions to roll over or extend the funding for independent disability advocacy services; and

(d)any legal or other advice regarding the scope or validity of this order of the House created as a result of this order of the House.

The reasons for this motion are clear on its face. I do not need to remind members of the history of this issue and of the repeated calls by this House for a response from Minister Ward to provide these organisations with the secure long-term funding they so desperately need and which the Ageing and Disability Commissioner has now recommended. But perhaps I do need to remind members of what is at stake here.

As confirmed by the commissioner, independent disability advocacy organisations are vital in improving the lives of the more than 1.3 million people in New South Wales with a disability—the vast majority of whom are not eligible for the NDIS—by working to protect people with a disability from abuse, neglect and exploitation. They have been doing this work for decades on a shoestring, powered on by their commitment to people with a disability and their determination to put them at the forefront of this Government's mind. Without funding certainty these organisations face significant stress in managing their operations. Will they need to move to cheaper premises? Will they be able to keep their staff? When they do not know how much they are going to receive or whether they will receive any funding at all past the end of the year, the individual stresses that places on these incredible advocates is onerous and deeply unfair.

These organisations have been asking for years now for a secure, long-term funding arrangement. They have spent significant time and effort lobbying the Minister for funding, time which could otherwise have been spent getting on with the actual work that people with a disability in this State sorely need them to do more of. They have received excuse after excuse—waiting until the Ageing and Disability Act is in place; waiting until the commissioner conducts his review; waiting until the Government responds to the commissioner's recommendations, whenever that might be—and the months tick on. The latest excuse is that the decisions on long-term funding that should have been made years ago have been delayed because this year's budget has been delayed, and that because of COVID the Minister has been busy.

Disability advocacy organisations and the people with a disability that rely on them have also been extremely busy throughout this period, with their workload significantly increasing, as they have not only helped the Government to identify gaps in its responses but also helped individuals to navigate the changing requirements that were not communicated with people with a disability in mind, that did not take into account their particular circumstances and that left them wondering, for instance, whether they would get arrested because the police would not accept that they were involved in exercise when leaving their house in a wheelchair to get some fresh air. Yet every few months or so this Government throws them another crumb—another commitment to extend their funding for three or maybe six months more. This is a situation that cannot continue. We must give these organisations certainty and if the Government cannot do that it needs to take a very good look at the way it manages its finances. I commend the motion to the House.

Read the full transcript on Hansard here.

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