The 2019 Federal Budget was announced on Tuesday by the Treasurer. There are a number of things in the Budget that are important for people with disability.
We are very happy to see $527 million allocated to our Royal Commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation against people with disability.
Below are some further details in the budget related to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), social security and our Royal Commission.
The Budget papers revealed a significant underspend in the NDIS from what was estimated in last year’s Budget.
The 2018-19 Budget estimated that the Government would spend $16.69bn in the last year, however only $12.9bn was actually spent.
This means there has been a huge underspend on the NDIS of $3.78bn.
The almost $4 billion underspend of NDIS funds is a national disgrace, and we completely oppose the spending of these funds anywhere but on people with disability.
The Government is estimating that there will be a decrease in spending of $1.6bn in 2019-20 that “largely reflecting the slower than expected transition of participants into the NDIS”
The problems people face with the NDIS include the difficulty and slowness of the application process, the wait time for review, and inadequate funding packages. This is something the Government could fix by employing more staff, which would assist in faster uptake of the NDIS.
The Budget revealed that the NDIA staffing cap remains in place, with staffing levels increasing by just 92 to 3,230 in 2019-20.
The Government has committed to increasing the staffing cap again in 2020-21, to hit a target they set of 750, but people with disability come to us every day in despair because they can’t access the NDIS, their funding packages have been cut or they aren’t getting the supports they urgently need.
The cap must be removed altogether so we are not left in limbo, sometimes at risk of harm and even death.
Since 2015, the NDIA has been subject to a staffing cap of 3,000. As a result, $600 million has been spent on consultants and people have experienced huge delays in access, plans and reviews.
The Government has not committed to raising the rate of Newstart, leaving people with disability on that payment with $40 a day.
We are disappointed yet again to see that the Federal Government has not listened to the 30% of people trying to survive on Newstart who have disability and/or illness. The Government forces people on Newstart to live in poverty, and we urgently need it to to be raised by $75 per week.
Energy Support Payment
People who are receiving the DSP or Newstart qualify for an energy assistance payment of $75 for single recipients, and $125 for couples. This is a one off payment.
Disability Support Pension
Government spending on DSP is estimated to decrease by 2.3 per cent from 2019-20 to 2022-23.
This is driven by the unfair tightening of eligibility, which simply drives more people into poverty on Newstart. We are concerned that this Government is going to continue to make it harder for people with disability to access the DSP.
We want the Government to establish a Senate inquiry into the adequacy of the social security system for people with disability – including a full review of the current approach and definitions within the impairment tables, debt recovery processes, and ways in which people with disability can be supported to gain entry into open employment, without being punished through the withdrawal of payments.
Our Royal Commission
We were pleased to see the $527.9m to fund our Royal Commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation against people with disability.
This will include funding to provide counselling services and other support to people with disability in connection with their participation in the Royal Commission.
We know that for people with disability to finally get the justice they deserve, the Royal Commission will need to come with a variety of essential supports and accessibility.
This funding includes $379.1million over five years for the Attorney-General’s Department to run the Royal Commission, to provide legal assistance to witnesses and to represent the Commonwealth in the Royal Commission proceedings.
The Government will also provide $148.8 million over three years to the Department of Social Services, the National Disability Insurance Agency and the National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguards Commission to provide counselling services and other support to people with disability in connection with their participation in the Royal Commission.
 Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 1 2018-19, p6-10.
 Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 1 2019-20, p5-10.
 Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 1 2019-20, 3-22. 5-10
 Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 4 2019-20, p177.
 The Hon Dan Tehan, Improved experience for NDIS participants and providers. 24 August 2019
 Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 2 2019-20, p159
 Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 1 2019-20, p5-24
 Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 2 2019-20, p54