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This week’s election + disability news mini-round-up

In the lead-up to the Federal Election, we’ve been posting weekly election + disability news mini-round-ups on Facebook and Twitter. The country goes to the polls tomorrow (except for those of us who used pre-polling options, of course), so unsurprisingly there has been a lot of media coverage, and we’ve decided to post this one to our website for easier reading.

Yesterday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced a $1.5b public service cut to fund Coalition budget promises – read more in The Mandarin, The Canberra Times and SBS News.

Also from SBS Newspolling shows 71 per cent of Australians want a more diverse parliament, and both Labor and Coalition spokespeople declined to comment on whether the parties would support reform to the immigration health requirement if elected this weekend, or why the full list of recommendations from the bipartisan 2010 parliamentary inquiry had not been implemented, while Greens Senator Jordan Steele-John said he would swiftly move to introduce legislation reforming the requirement.

This week, ABC News answered whether you can and have to vote if you are terminally ill, and also wrote about voting accessibility, and the problems faced by people with intellectual disability when enrolling to vote.

More from the Canberra Times: Clive Palmer says United Australia Party undecided on merits of immunisation, and Labor commits to Canberra-based NDIS training trial.

From 9 News: ‘Could you live on $39 a day?’ Newstart under the microscope again on Q&A.

From the Examiner: Labor promises $1 million for Special Olympics in Launceston but state government not consulted before pledge.

From My GC: Federal Labor investment promised for the Gold Coast Titans.

And Pro Bono News spoke to a Melbourne wheelchair user and campaigner about her experience of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and what a change in government would mean for her and other people in the disability community.

That’s it! If you’re voting tomorrow, you can find accessibility information on the AEC website. And don’t forget, you can sign up to our Daily Media Round-Up to get disability-related headlines in your inbox every weekday.

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2019 Federal Budget

Tile with text: "2019 Budget", "NDIS", "Income Support", and "Our Royal Commission" in coloured boxes over a graphic of a tablet and a pen. White panel at the bottom with the PWDA logo and the text "2019 Federal Budget".

White panel with text "2019 Federal Budget" and the PWDA logo

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 $527million 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.

Inforgraphic with text: "NDIS 2019 Federal Budget. Estimated Spending on NDIS in 2018/2019 - $16.69bn. Actual Spending on NDIS in 2018/2019 - $12.9bn. Underspend of $3.8bn. 92 additional staff for the NDIA in 2019/2020. Staffing cap not removed."

 

NDIS Underspend

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[1] in the last year, however only $12.9bn was actually spent.[2]

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”[3]

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.

Staffing

The Budget revealed that the NDIA staffing cap remains in place, with staffing levels increasing by just 92 to 3,230 in 2019-20.[4]

The Government has committed to increasing the staffing cap again in 2020-21, to hit a target they set of 750[5], 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.

Infographic with text: Income Support: No raise in the rate of Newstart - remains at $40 a day. People receiving the Newstart and DSP payments qualify for the Energy Assistance Payment One off payment. 2.3% decrease in spending on the DSP in 2022-23. Less money for DSP.

Newstart

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.[6] 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.[7]

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.

Infographic with text: “Our Royal Commission: Funding to support the Royal Commission - $527.9m over the next five years. Funding for legal support: Funding to run the Royal Commission - $375.1m. Funding for Support Services - $148.8m. Support for engaging: $148.8m. Funding for support services will provide counselling and other services for people engaging with the Royal Commission.”

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.[8]

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.

[1] Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 1 2018-19, p6-10.

[2] Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 1 2019-20, p5-10.

[3] Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 1 2019-20, 3-22. 5-10

[4] Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 4 2019-20, p177.

[5] The Hon Dan Tehan, Improved experience for NDIS participants and providers. 24 August 2019

< https://formerministers.dss.gov.au/18072/improved-experience-for-ndis-participants-and-providers/>

[6] Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 2 2019-20, p159

[7] Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 1 2019-20, p5-24

[8] Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 2 2019-20, p54

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Pre-Budget Submission 2019 – invest to solve housing crisis for people with disability

PWDA, with the Summer Foundation, National Shelter, and the Australian Network for Universal Housing Design, have developed a package to address the housing crisis for many people with disability.Drawings of different houses. Text says: We need affordable and accessible homes. People with disability want the Federal Government to invest $2.7 billion to solve our housing crisis

The package includes measures to make more homes accessible, to increase the supply of affordable and social housing, and reform the Specialist Disability Accommodation funding in the NDIS. People with disability are being forced into group homes and aged care, can’t find an accessible place to live, and are struggling to afford a home. Each of the measures in this package will work to solve these problems.

Media release: People with disability want budget investment of $2.7 billion to solve housing crisis

Download the full pre-Budget submission: Word or PDF

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People with disability want budget investment of $2.7 billion to solve housing crisis

7 February 2019

Disability and housing groups have come together to call for a significant investment in disability housing to make sure that all people with disability live in homes that are safe, affordable and accessible.

“For decades, people with disability have been shut away in institutions, group homes and other kinds of housing that non-disabled people never have to consider. In 2019, we want the right to live in the community, just like everyone else,” said Dean Price, Senior Policy Officer, People with Disability Australia.

“Whether it’s renting, owning a home, or in public and social housing, people with disability need the Federal Government to invest to make sure we have equal access to a place to live. Much of Australia’s housing stock is unaffordable or inaccessible, and our policy settings push people with disability into unsafe and unwanted housing, such as group homes or boarding houses, or even into homelessness.”

“People with disability who use the NDIS aren’t being given the same choices about where they live as non-disabled people, too often being forced into residential aged care. We will need to see a dramatic increase in accessible housing if we are to get young people with disabilities out of residential aged care” said Dr George Taleporos, Policy Manager, Summer Foundation.

“We want to see a big increase in accessible housing that can open up the community housing market for people with disability.”

“Many people with disability find it hard to find an accessible place to live, so we are calling for accessible housing features to be made mandatory in all new housing, and for the Federal Government to provide financial incentives to make sure our social, public and community housing is accessible,” said Margaret Ward, Convenor, Australian Network for Universal Housing Design.

“We also need to make sure that all public, social and community housing is also built to a high accessible standard.”

“Many people with disability on income support are in rental stress, paying more than 30% of their income on rent. We need to increase the Commonwealth Rent Assistance to make sure that people with disability can afford their rent,” said Adrian Pisarski, Executive Officer, National Shelter.

“In addition, we urgently need new capital investment to generate 300,000 new social and Aboriginal housing properties, so we are calling on the Federal Government to invest $1 billion this year, and then $5 billion a year over the forward estimates.”

“This comprehensive package, worth in total $2.7 billion, will be a significant step towards ensuring that people with disability can live in the community, just like everyone else. People with disability shouldn’t be forced into aged care or group homes because there is no other choice,” said Mr Price.

Download the full pre-Budget submission here.

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2015 Budget: modest but welcome measures for disability

12 May 2015

People with Disability Australia (PWDA) welcomes the 2015 Budget commitments to a modest but promising package of initiatives to address employment participation of people with disability.

“For some time, PWDA has called for a comprehensive jobs plan, and tonight we see the beginnings of this plan”, said Mr Craig Wallace, PWDA President. “The JobAccess Gateway could be a promising beginning for a new system which is more responsive and accountable to people with disability and employers”.

“We especially welcome the provision of funding to allow people employed in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) or workshops, to access support from a Disability Employment Services (DES) provider for up to two years to assist with securing employment in the open labour market. Currently people can only access DES support by leaving an ADE. This new measure will remove a deterrent facing people with disability seeking open employment as an alternative to an ADE.

“We also welcome measures that allow young people with disability to receive employment assistance from DES providers while still participating in State and Territory post school employment programs.

“PWDA offers cautious support for the new higher outcome measures for DES providers who will now be funded on the basis of providing at least 23 hours of work to people who have been assessed as having this work capacity. We do however, think it will be important that DES providers are appropriately resourced to be able to provide job opportunities in a tightening employment market.

“PWDA welcomes the Abbott Government’s ongoing commitment to the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), including its extension to outer Western Sydney region as well as improvements to the ICT in the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

“We welcome the focus on assistance for students with disability outlined in the press release from Minister Pyne. We will be reviewing the detail of these measures in coming days.

We support the decision to continue with the current indexation arrangements for the Disability Support Pension (DSP), and we hope the Government will continue the focus on positive employment initiatives rather than punitive welfare measures.”

MEDIA: Craig Wallace 0413 135 731

People with Disability Australia Incorporated (PWDA) is a national disability rights and advocacy, non-profit, non-government organisation. We have a cross-disability focus, representing the interests of people with all kinds of disability and our membership is made up of people with disability and organisations mainly constituted by people with disability.

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Cuts to Mobility Allowance

12 March 2017

A diverse partnership of over 25 representative organisations of people with disability, disability advocacy organisations, disability services and disability peak bodies have come together to call on Federal Senators to block the Mobility Allowance Bill that is currently before the Senate.

Read the full statement: Word (1.2MB) or PDF (585kB)

Read the media release.

If passed, this Bill will:

  • Reduce transport support for people with disability;
  • Increase social isolation and reduce the ability for people with disability to contribute to the community;
  • Create further barriers to economic participation for people with disability, at a time when there are increasing obligations upon them to find and keep work;
  • Exacerbate the already considerable costs involved for people with disability entering or re-entering the workforce. These additional costs can outweigh the economic benefits of having a job, and be a disincentive to looking for work.

The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Transition Mobility Allowance to the National Disability Insurance Scheme) Bill 2016 will restrict access to essential transport funding to only those eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). There are approximately two million people with disability of working age, but only 460,000 will be transiting to the NDIS, This means that this Bill will impact many thousands of people with disability who will not have access to the NDIS, including people over the age of 65. The Bill has been to the Senate Community Affairs Committee, where people with disability gave extensive evidence about the problems with the legislation, which was ignored by the Government

The groups supporting the statement are:

  • Australian Blindness Forum
  • Blind Citizens Australia
  • Capricorn Citizen Advocacy
  • Children and Youth with Disability Australia
  • Council for Intellectual Disability NSW
  • Disability Advocacy Network Australia
  • Disabled People’s Organisations Australia
  • First Peoples Disability Network of Australia
  • Guide Dogs Australia
  • Guide Dogs Victoria
  • Independent Advocacy Townsville
  • Macular Disease Foundation Australia
  • Melbourne East Disability Advocacy
  • National Ethnic Disability Alliance
  • National Social Security Rights Network
  • NSW Council of Social Service
  • ParaQuad NSW
  • Physical Disability Council of NSW
  • People with Disability Australia
  • People with Disabilities Western Australia
  • Queensland Advocacy Inc.
  • Retina Australia
  • Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists
  • Spinal Cord Injuries Australia
  • The Royal Society for the Blind
  • Visability
  • Vision Australia
  • Vision 2020 Australia
  • Women with Disabilities Australia

Read the full statement: Word (1.2MB) or PDF (585kB).

Read the media release.