Demand for disability advocates recognised but not matched by funding

Tags NDIS Finance Advice Industry Government

Posted 1 month ago by Anna Christian

The Federal Government has promised funding for disability advocates if elected, but People with Disability Australia says the funding needs to be much more. [Source: Shutterstock]
The Federal Government has promised funding for disability advocates if elected, but People with Disability Australia says the funding needs to be much more. [Source: Shutterstock]

The Government has confirmed the funding figure it will put towards advocacy support for people with disability over the next three years, if elected, but the amount will not be a big enough increase on previous years, according to a peak body.

Peak representative organisation People with Disability Australia (PWDA) has been calling for more funding to address the 300 percent increase in appeals by National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants against adverse National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) decisions on funding seen in the past six months.

If elected on 21 May, the Federal Government will provide $73 million in grants over the next three years to 59 organisations that offer advocacy support to people with disability through the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP).

NDAP advocates provide a range of supports to people with disability, including for individual advocacy to stand against discrimination, abuse and neglect, systemic advocacy to remove barriers in society, and legal advocacy.

A further $30.4 million would be provided over three years in grants to 50 organisations to deliver the NDIS Appeals Program, which is advocacy support particularly for NDIA decision appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

Minister for Families and Social Services, Anne Ruston, says the Government recognises the importance of advocates and advocacy funding.

“An advocate can identify the issues that the person needs help with, give them information about all of their available options, help them to express their views to others and understand and defend their rights,” says Minister Ruston.

“As part of our record investment in the NDIS, we need to ensure people with disability can access the services they deserve and get what they need.”

A Department of Social Services spokesperson says the combination of the NDAP and NDIS Appeals Program funding that is promised, totalling $100 million, represents an increase in funding on the previous years.

“The Federal Government committed around $88.1 million in baseline funding for the NDAP and the NDIS Appeals Program for the past three years (2019-20 to 2021-22),” the spokesperson says.

The increase for 2022/2025 is 13.3 percent up on 2019/2022 NDAP funding and 29 percent for the NDIS Appeals Program.

The Department spokesperson adds, “The Government has also provided supplementary funding for the NDIS Appeals Program each year in response to demand, totalling approximately $16 million since 2018-19.

“Demand for advocacy services is monitored through provider reporting and in consultation with the disability advocacy sector.”

However, Shadow Minister for the NDIS and Government Services, Bill Shorten, says the Government's announcement is not new funding.

"The Morrison Government is trying to repackage grants it has already allocated with a big tacky bow," he says.

"The irony is appeals to the AAT have exploded and the Morrison Government has allocated a small parcel of funds for participants who they are forcing to fight expensive external Government paid lawyers.

"Labor will release its NDIS policy in the coming weeks where we will outline our plans to fix the NDIS for people with disability.”

Before the Federal Budget for 2022/2023 was released, the NDIS Appeals Program was given an extra $4.5 million in funding until the end of the 2021/2022 financial year.

While PWDA says it welcomes this extra funding, which is a 50 percent increase, the organisation has been asking for a 300 percent increase in the NDIS Appeals Program funding to match the recent increase in demand.

In addition, PWDA says it would like to see even more NDAP funding to address the unmet need many people with disability have for advocacy services related to other aspects of their lives.