With a $2.2 million funding boost to disability advocacy services, the Victorian Government is leading the charge to support advocacy during the outbreak of COVID-19.
Victorian Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers Luke Donnellan says, “We’re making sure Victorians with a disability and the dedicated people who care for them have the support and resources they need throughout the coronavirus pandemic.”
Disability advocacy is an essential service for people with disability and provides them with the opportunity to say when things are not working, says Sarah Forbes, Advocacy Manager for Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability (VALID).
Mary Mallette, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA) agrees, adding, “[Advocacy] provides somebody with disability someone separate from and independent from the situation that is happening around them… An independent advocate provides [people with disability] with someone who is on their side and who will help them to work through what their problem is.
“They are not driven either by greed or by anything financially related, they are just driven by the motivation to help that person. So it is a particularly useful thing for people who are inside the service system and constrained by a service system.”
According to Ms Forbes, COVID-19 has shown just how essential disability advocacy is and how desperately they need funding to ensure services can be provided now and into the future.
“We’ve seen an increase in calls from people with intellectual disability, families and service providers seeking help.
“Advocacy in a time like this provides a grassroots on the ground accessible response and there are disability advocacy organisations across all over the country who are struggling for survival, including VALID.
“We are relying on the State Government to ensure disability advocacy is funded.”
The Victorian Government’s support of advocacy services should be followed by other States, says Ms Mallette, as the impacts of COVID-19 for people with disability are likely to be felt for longer.
“They should follow Victoria’s lead absolutely. The changes caused by COVID-19 are really significant, and they are going to go on, for what it looks like, quite some time even though [Federal Government] talked about lifting some of the restrictions.
“For people with disability, the restrictions may not lift at the same pace because of or in parallel with their disability they have health conditions which mean they are more vulnerable to coronavirus.”
It’s not just State Governments that should be supporting disability advocacy during COVID-19 says Geoff Rowe, CEO of Aged and Disability Advocates (ADA) Australia but the Federal Government as well.
“At the moment people with disability are feeling alone, vulnerable and they are feeling powerless, and in that context I think it is really important, [Sate and Federal Governments], to step up and to acknowledge and to respond to that by funding advocacy services so that people are safe, are empowered, and people are supported.”
Trevor Carroll CEO of Disability Justice Australia adds, “I am very disappointed that disability advocacy does not even get a mention in the attached COVID-19 Plan from the Australian Government, yet thousand’s of people with disability rely on our sector at a time like this.”
The Victorian Government has also allocated funding to:
Establishing Disability Liaison Officers in health services
An additional 11,000 hours of respite
Organisations helping Victorians with psychosocial disabilities and the expansion of the Department of Health and Human Services Intensive Support Team
Read the Victorian Government's full announcement here.
You can also visit our dedicated COVID-19 information page for the latest updates on how COVID-19 is impacting the disability sector.
Do you have any questions about COVID-19 that you want answered? Tell us in the comments below or email [email protected].