The Federal Budget is due to be delivered tomorrow night and many people with disability could benefit from funding if advocates’ demands are met.
Advocacy groups representing Australians from all kinds of backgrounds sent in pre-Budget submissions during the consultation process, with 559 submissions in total.
People with Disability Australia (PWDA), peak disability representative organisation, is requesting key changes not just in funding but in support systems, as President Samantha Connor says with a Federal Election just around the corner the Budget will set much of the election agenda.
“PWDA will be seeking a range of spending commitments in our upcoming election campaign across a variety of areas such as employment, financial security, health and wellbeing, housing, safety and justice,” Ms Connor says.
“However, for this upcoming Budget, what we’re focusing on are four key things that will significantly improve the health and safety of people with disability across Australia.
“In uncertain times such as these, what we expect from our national Government are measures that will protect us from danger and provide us with the equity, dignity and respect to which all Australians are entitled.”
PWDA is asking for four priority funding areas to be included in the Budget:
- Improving emergency planning and support for people with disability, particularly following the experiences of people with disability affected by the 2019 bushfires, the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent floods
- Ensuring a fully funded and sustainable National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), with a dedicated Commonwealth Fund as was suggested in the 2011 Productivity Commission Report
- Improving COVID safety for people with disability, including adequate income support to make sure all people with disability are living above the poverty line, as well as safety measures for school, work and recreational activities and a renewed focus on making sure those who are most at risk from COVID-19 are safe and supported
- Supporting disability advocacy services, as appeals against adverse NDIS decisions have risen 300 percent in the past six months and put enormous strain on Australia’s publicly funded disability advocates who help people with disability navigate complex legal and regulatory systems. PWDA wants funding tripled to help ensure people with disability are getting the justice they deserve
The Summer Foundation, which advocates for housing for people with disability, has raised concern around the amount of time it takes for funding to be approved for those in need of Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) and the flow on effects this has on the health and wellbeing of people waiting months in unsuitable living environments.
To fix this issue, the Summer Foundation would like to see Budget items for timely allocation of SDA funding and support in NDIS plans – by ensuring the NDIA spends the funding already set aside for this purpose – as well as the NDIA committing to making the best use of the new-build SDA dwellings that are vacant and under construction.
In addition, the Foundation asks for the Federal Government to provide $54 million to improve hospital discharge efficiency for NDIS participants.
National Disability Services (NDS), the peak body representing disability service providers, submitted a comprehensive list of changes needed in policy, Government action and funding.
The requests include:
- Continued funding for NDS to undertake peak body activities
- Address predicted market failure through increasing NDIS prices or establishing an independent pricing mechanism, resourcing an NDIS Provider Guarantee and committing to co-designing improvements with the sector
- Strengthen quality and safeguards for NDIS participants through expanded worker screening and greater regulation of high-risk supports
- Invest in growing and developing the workforce through increasing organisational capacity to support new job seeker entrance pathways, funding a targeted strategy to address critical allied health shortages and funding for retention and training
- Increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities through allocating sufficient resources to implement the NDIS participant employment strategy and a number of other systemic changes in Disability Employment Services (DES) and the NDIS
- Invest in improved outcomes for all people with disabilities through investing in Australia’s Disability Strategy and funding NDS to support sector emergency management
Several organisations including MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Australia and MND (Motor Neurone Disease) Australia mentioned in their submissions the importance of a national assistive technology (AT) program to fund the costs of AT for people who are unable to have it funded under other systems, such as those who are ineligible for the NDIS because of their age.
The national AT program is an issue that is not only important for the Budget but also factors in the Election as these and other organisations run the Assistive Technology for All campaign.
Other organisations that made pre-Budget submissions mentioning people with disability include:
- Mental Health Australia – asking for continued funding for psychosocial support that is not covered under the NDIS (estimated to affect 154,000 people)
- Carers Australia – asking for a Commissioner for Carers and Government Office for Carers to be established, a new National Carers Strategy, a review of economic and financial support for carers and more mental health and wellbeing support for carers
- Dietitians Australia – asking for more Medicare coverage for dietetic services for people with disability or mental health conditions, to work alongside other supports and services
- Anglicare Australia – asking for full funding for the NDIS, as well as expanding DES to include people who are already in work, ensuring DES providers are able to work with people over the longer-term to make sure they are job-ready and removing all mutual obligation requirements for DES participants, plus funding to address the gap in access to psychosocial support services
- Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance – asking for all Federal Government websites to be updated to meet the latest accessibility standards so that people with disability can also access Government information
- Australian Education Union – asking for more funding and consistent funding to support students with disability so that they can receive a quality education
The full list of pre-Budget submissions can be accessed on the Australian Government Treasury’s website.
The Budget is expected to be released tomorrow night at 7.30 pm (AEDT), 29 March.