Media Release: Budget 2021 ‘not a budget for people with disability’

People with Disability Australia (PWDA) has welcomed $13.2 billion of funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme but has dubbed the latest Federal Budget “not a budget for people with disability.”

The federal government will put in an extra $13.2b for the NDIS to be spent over four years.

The disabled people’s organisation was the only disability organisation in the Federal Budget 2021 lockdown and said key asks from the disability sector were overlooked in the budget.

PWDA president Samantha Connor, who has read the budget, said people with disability had missed out.

“The government has missed a chance to level the playing field for people with disability in the latest budget,” Ms Connor said.

“Budget 2021 is not a budget for people with disability.

“Disabled people are facing heightened anxiety and significant disadvantage during the many disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People with disability urgently need the backing of our government during these troubled times to ensure we don’t face unnecessary disadvantage but the government has largely ignored our pleas.”

PWDA has pulled out a number of reforms from the budget that could affect people with disability but criticised the government for a “worrying lack of detail on some plans and for not involving key groups with its preliminary plans.”

Among the highlights was a “paltry” $9.3m sum for the prevention of violence against disabled women to be delivered over three years.

“Despite all the abuses being exposed by Disability Royal Commission, there is only $9.3m for violence prevention against disabled women but no additional funding for the prevention of violence against people with disability,” Ms Connor said.

The PWDA president expressed her hope that the government would deliver on its promises to involve people with disability in its future planning.

“We look forward to the government’s plan to codesign these plans with disabled people, their families and representative organisations and look forward to more detail about the Budget 2021,” she said.

Pull-outs from the budget for people with disability

  1. Investments of $878.7 million for new and amended listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
  2. Funding for mental health initiatives, including $278.6 million for Headspace centres.
  3. A “paltry” $9.3m over three years for the prevention of violence against disabled women, despite all the abuses being exposed by the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.
  4. Plans to align the aged care, veterans and disability sectors, including harmonising worker screening processes and regulatory systems, which seem to have been set without the involvement of those at the centre of those schemes.
  5. A worrying lack of detail on some proposals, including a plan to axe Centrelink’s JobActive program from 1 July, 2022 and a large-scale plan to rollout digital transformation projects under the banner of Services Australia, including for job seekers in the Disability Employment Services system.

A ‘fair go’ is needed

Yesterday Ms Connor reprimanded the government for “scare tactics” and “dodgy accounting” on the expected size of the NDIS, saying growth to the scheme had been anticipated for years.

Disability representative organisation PWDA had last week called on the government to give people with disability a fair go in the 2021-22 budget.

“Disabled people had called on the government to urgently fund a raft of measures and meet Australia’s responsibilities under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability but the government has ignored our pleas,” Ms Connor said.

Among the measures the membership organisation PWDA put forward in its wishlist A Fair Go for People with Disability (featured below) were urgent widespread improvements to many disability policy areas.

PWDA and the disability sector are opposing changes to the National Disability Insurance Scheme that would see hard-core NDIS cost-cutting measures be brought in, including cutting people’s plan budgets by using roboplanning and so-called independent assessors whose decisions cannot be appealed.

The government’s proposed privatised assessment system has been robustly blasted by people with disability, their families, academics, service providers and allied health professionals.

Media enquires:

People with Disability Australia
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A Fair Go for People with Disability

Like more than 100 social sector organisations, People with Disability Australia wants the government to reconsider its planned approach to so-called independent assessments.

Like the sector, we call on the Australian Government to:

  1. Urgently halt the current independent assessment trials and fund an independent robust, transparent evaluation of the current pilot of independent assessments. This evaluation must be independent of the National Disability Insurance Agency and government, be led by experts and co-designed with people with disability, their families and the organisations that support them.
  2. Fund robust, independent and transparent trials of alternative approaches to improving consistency in access and planning – such as allowing a person’s existing and trusted health professionals to complete assessments using appropriate tools.
  3. Once those trials and evaluations are complete, fund a meaningful co-design process with people with disability, their families and the organisations that support them to ensure a fair and consistent approach to both access to the scheme and planning and to ensure people with disability receive the support they need.

PWDA also wants the federal government to:

1. End Segregation

Fund a national plan to desegregate workplaces, schools and other disability specific congregate environments, as well as closing institutions and making sure people with disability are not forced into congregate living arrangements. #EndSegregation

2. Preserve Our NDIS

Ensure that funding for our NDIS is enshrined in law. Legislate the ongoing funding of the NDIS, protect the DisabilityCare Australia fund and ensure that underspent funds are preserved and reinvested directly into the scheme.

3. Let Us Speak

Fund a 17-month extension for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, #WeNeedMoreTime, as well as ensuring that target issues are addressed, including the right to redress, confidentiality and support provisions for those who are unsafe #LetUsSpeak

4. Ensure We’re Safe At Home

Urgently address the housing affordability crisis by increasing Centrelink Rent Assistance, funding Aboriginal housing and crisis and homelessness services and investing in (non-segregated) social housing through direct grants to states and territories for people with disability

5. Help Make Us Safe

Immediately commence a plan of action to ensure that clinically vulnerable people with disability, especially those living in congregate environments, are prioritised for the most suitable vaccines for their medical requirements, as well as introducing an ethical decision making framework and a Shielded Person List and Priority Schedule.

6. Introduce a Flexible Workforce Strategy

Fund economic independence for people with disability (and others who may be clinically at risk of contracting COVID) by introducing and funding a National Flexible Workforce Strategy, which removes geographical barriers, assists employers to retain employees with disability and creates job opportunities for people with disability who may face barriers to employment. Investigate the cost benefits of retaining other flexible measures introduced during the pandemic, including access to Telehealth.

7. Ensure Emergency Preparedness and Implement Climate Change Readiness

Introduce urgent measures to ensure that people with disability are not disproportionately affected by climate change. Ensure that federal agencies such as the National Disability Insurance Agency and the National Recovery and Resilience Agency are funded to develop emergency preparedness and response plans for people with disability through a genuine co-design process. Ensure life-saving equipment such as back-up generators and warning systems are funded and offset the rising costs of electricity for disability pensioners and people with disability who experience thermoregulatory dysfunction.

8. Fund the National Disability Strategy

Fully fund the implementation of the National Disability Strategy and ensure that disabled persons organisations are adequately funded to promote, monitor and collect data to assist with reporting.

9. Ensure Access to Advocacy

Fully fund advocacy and ensure that ‘gaps’ are captured by providing additional resourcing to monitor needs across regions, as well as consult with people with disability and their families about unmet need for advocacy across all areas of life.