Media Release: Federal Budget 2019-2020

Queenslanders with Disability (QDN) welcomes the announcement of $527.9M over five years to fully fund the Royal Commission on the Abuse, Violence, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability in last night’s Federal Budget for 2019-2020.

Nigel Webb, Chairperson, QDN Board of Directors said, “People with disability have long waited for justice for the abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation they have experienced in their lives. We know that this process of gathering and giving evidence at the Royal Commission is going to be a challenging time for each individual. I am pleased to see that as part of this funding, $149M is committed to assisting people with disability to participate in the Commission. We all come with different and diverse needs based upon our age, gender, cultural backgrounds, communication and support needs. This funding will give everyone who wants to participate, access to the supports they need to do this.”

However, QDN is concerned that funding is being taken away from people with disability, and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) at a time it is critical to fix issues people with disability and their families are having with the scheme. The NDIS is a critical investment in the supports and needs of people with disability to live their day-to-day life in their communities, based upon principles of choice and control. QDN acknowledges the slower than expected roll out, including in Queensland, where approximately only 60% of the 90,000 participants have access to the scheme, with only 3 months until full transition. Paige Armstrong, CEO, QDN, said, “QDN has been working alongside people with disability over the past 5 years to ensure those who are eligible have the right information and right support to make access requests. There are many Queenslanders with a disability who are eligible for the scheme who need additional support and advocacy to get the paperwork and evidence together in the way that meets the requirements of the NDIA. For those that get the funded supports they need, many Queenslanders with disability are then experiencing challenges with activating their plans. There are a variety of reasons for this and we see them as ones that can be addressed with additional support and investment in this transitional period.” Ms Armstrong said, “QDN is disappointed that the underspend in the NDIS is not clear from this budget and that the budget for this coming year is $1.6B lower than expected. QDN believes it is critical that any underspend from the NDIS is invested in people with disability, to enable them to be able to access the scheme with the right supports, and then once they have their plans, hands-on support to be able to kick start their plan and start purchasing their supports.” The NDIS is a once in a generation transformational change and people with disability, along with families and providers need additional support and investment to make the change and transition.

Accessible, affordable housing now is a critical issue for people with disability and a place to call home. The Federal budget brought down last night provides tax cuts; however, this does not address the issues of the growing crisis for housing affordability and rent increases experienced by Queenslanders with disability and Queenslanders more broadly. Recent research by AHURI and UNSW projects a shortfall of up to 1 million social and affordable homes by 2036 and previous estimates put the need right not at 500,000. Investment is needed in national rent affordability schemes and an increase in rental assistance for all people who experience disadvantage and marginalisation. QDN is disappointed that the Federal budget does not include any strategic national initiatives focused on reinvigorating community and low-cost housing markets, increasing stock and improving access to affordable, accessible housing.

Income support through the Disability Support Pension for people with disability who cannot work has been increasingly harder to access. This budget sees a decrease of 2.3% from 2019-20 to 2022-23, which inevitably will drive more people onto Newstart Allowances, which are currently sitting at almost 30% being people with disability. QDN’s CEO Paige Armstrong said, “We need to make sure everyone with a disability is getting a fair go and can access the income support they need to meet growing pressures of the costs of living. People with disability want to work and they want real work for real pay. It is important that people can access income support if they needed it, and action is taken to assist people with disability to gain employment so they can socially and economically participate in their community.” The new data-matching technology to prevent over-payments for working income support recipients that will require people to report fortnightly. QDN hopes that the Government will make this a streamlined and straightforward process for people, which does not add additional burden on people through over bureaucratic processes.

QDN also welcomes announcements in the Federal Budget which provide additional funding for mental health services that includes $152M for additional Headspace services and $111M for 30 new Headspace centres and an additional $230M over seven years for expanded mental health. QDN believes that while this investment is welcomed, significantly more investment will be needed as gaps arise as services cease through the NDIS transition.  QDN welcomes additional investment in skills and training outlined in the budget; however, it is critical that there is a targeted approach for people with disability who experience significantly lower employment than the rest of the population.

QDN also welcomes the funding of $21.6B in 2019-2020 for older Australians, which has increased over the past 5 years.  We know that there are many older Queenslanders with disability who won’t be eligible for the NDIS who need access to essential services and supports right now which are critical to their wellbeing, care and support. This budget also announces $282.4M for an additional 10,000 home care packages across all levels, however QDN acknowledges there is still significant unmet need in this area for older Australians with disability to access their basic rights and support.

Contact: Paige Armstrong, CEO | 0408 720 099

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