A Modest Budget for Disability
The 2014 ACT Budget contains some welcome initiatives and continues a well-structured transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. However, spending on disability is modest, reflecting the current fiscal environment. Overall, initiatives to support the active citizenship of people with disabilities – support for their active participation and contribution at all levels of the community – are lacking.
Key concerns with this budget:
1. Continuing uncertainty with the NDIS transition because the Federal Government is yet to sign off on the phasing agreement.
2. Non-human rights compliant respite facility
The ACT Government has made a regressive decision to fund $1.075 million for a non-human rights compliant congregate respite facility for children with disabilities. The NDIS will enable innovative and inclusive respite programs to evolve for families and children, which should have been supported in this budget. Families are not being supported to explore the new options and opportunities. It is deeply disappointing to see the ACT government failing to support such progress and instead continuing to fund segregated services in this Budget.
3. Exclusion from the digital economy
People with disabilities are in danger of being left behind as Canberra moves rapidly towards a digital economy. Key disability and welfare services are increasingly expecting consumers to access and apply for supports online. Many people with disabilities do not have access or are not supported to access the internet and computer technology. The Budget shows no initiatives to ensure people with disabilities included in this digital economy.
4. Preparing people for the NDIS
The ACT government has not taken responsibility for supporting people with disabilities to get ready for the NDIS. This is a major concern as people with disabilities need significant self-advocacy support to identify, express and plan out their new choices as the NDIS is rolled out. Many tier three recipients will not have had any experience making decisions about their own supports. Trial sites in other states are lagging because of a lack of preparation in this regard. The ACT will experience the same issues as it has not committed to getting people with disabilities NDIS ready.
5. Uncertainty about the availability of independent disability advocacy
The demand for independent disability advocacy will increase dramatically with the roll out of the NDIS and the population increase of people with disabilities. Yet, uncertainty about the availability of advocacy continues, with no clear commitments in this Budget. Independent disability advocacy is critical in supporting people with disabilities to achieve good outcomes as NDIS recipients and to address issues of inequality and discrimination in the community. It is essential in shaping an efficient, effective and quality NDIS service system.
Positive initiatives in the 2014 ACT Budget:
1. The continuing well-structured transition towards the NDIS.
2. Funding to implement Mental Health Act amendments, including recognition of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and decision making capacity
3. Support for concessions schemes adversely affected by the Federal Budget.
4. Funding to support the new Out of Home Care Strategy will potentially benefit parents with disabilities and children with disabilities if intensive placement prevention and restoration strategies are part of this strategy.
5. Welcome capital works to support more accessible education, the Supreme Court, disability housing and ACTION Bus fleet upgrade.
6. Long overdue funding injection to increase subsidy levels under the Taxi Subsidy Scheme.
7. Reduction in fees for quarterly vehicle registration payments.
The needs of people with disabilities go beyond the NDIS. We expect the ACT government to proactively support our role as active citizens in the ACT community. This Budget contributes modestly towards this, but there is still a very long way to go.