Saturday, February 25, 2017
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Time to move disability into the 21st century

 

We’re giving it 5 out of 10.

 

ACT Budget 2016 is a boring budget which could have offered so much more in innovation and progressing rights for people with disabilities, but which seems stuck back in the 1980s with old style solutions, further marginalisation of people with disabilities living with violence, and a government fixated on congregate living arrangements.

 The delivery of disability rights has stalled as the ACT government continues to focus on the NDIS to an almost total exclusion of anything else.

As all the energy continues to go into NDIS transition, the rest has been left by the wayside as both ACT and federal governments drop the bundle on National Disability Strategy implementation.

Of great concern is the announcement of a major family violence package which will further marginalise people with disabilities who experience violence in their own homes. The budget package, accompanied by legislation tabled in the Legislative Assembly today, specifically excludes people with disabilities who live in congregate and shared accommodation or informal extended kinship arrangements. Yet the ACT government is actively pushing these options as the places where people with disabilities should live.

 Budget 2016 even includes further funding for a congregate respite facility as the only major disability infrastructure spend, with more funds for the Ricky Stuart Foundation respite facility for teens. This is unacceptable and outside the disability rights obligations of this government. The NDIS provides for much more innovative rights based solutions, yet the ACT government is welded to methods devised in the 1980s.

 People with disabilities have a right to equality and to be covered equally by the laws that cover other Canberrans; this includes the right to be safe in their own homes. ACT Budget 2016 has further eroded that right, and further marginalised people with disabilities, when it should be part of making those rights real. Most insultingly, people with disabilities will still be required to pay the levy, applied to all households except public housing, to cover the family violence package, yet they won’t be able to call on the services funded by it.

 The Social Inclusion Statement further illustrates the slide in disability policy by listing some highly innovative and imaginative initiatives for various minority groups in the ACT community, while repeating old measures about disability and the NDIS. This budget lacks imagination and innovation on disability rights and community inclusion when it should have been progressive and forward thinking in an election year of good fiscal outlook.

 

Welcome news is present with the new structure of Disability ACT revealed following uncertainty for several years. We look forward to seeing disability identified positions as part of the new Strategic Policy Unit within the Community Services Directorate, and to finally returning to implementation of the National Disability Strategy.