Disability advocacy to receive $26 million over two years, but locals question lack of funding for client transport

ADVOCACY: $26m funding.
ADVOCACY: $26m funding.

A STATE government decision to continue funding disability advocacy in NSW has been mostly well received in Lake Macquarie, despite concerns transport for disabled people remained “the elephant in the room” that hadn’t been addressed.

The government announced this week that rumoured cuts to disability advocacy services would not occur.

It means the government will provide $26 million for the sector over the next two years.

Member for Lake Macquarie, Greg Piper, had been pushing the case for continued funding for disability advocacy providers.

“This morning’s announcement by the state government is a great victory for disability services in our area and a great victory for common sense,” Mr Piper said on Friday.

“I’m really pleased that the government has listened to the community and agreed to put in place much of the plan I’ve been pushing for.”

He said the $26 million would be made available for disability advocacy services statewide during the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Mr Piper said the plan would give surety to those groups who work hard for people with disabilities.

The NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance also welcomed the continued funding.

“People with disability rely on disability advocacy to make sure they’re getting a fair deal - whether it’s advocating for improved access on public transport, protecting workplace rights, or dealing with horrific cases of abuse, exploitation or discrimination,” alliance spokesperson, Serena Ovens, said.

Vivienne Bruce with MP Greg Piper last year, when Ms Bruce was named Lake Macquarie's Woman of the Year. Picture: David Stewart

Vivienne Bruce with MP Greg Piper last year, when Ms Bruce was named Lake Macquarie's Woman of the Year. Picture: David Stewart

But manager of Southlakes Carers, of Morisset, Vivienne Bruce, said while the funding was fantastic news for disability advocacy, the money could have been better spent elsewhere in the disability sector.

She said advocacy was one thing, but the provision of services, and transport to enable clients to access those services, was another.

“People who are falling though the cracks now are still going to be falling through the cracks, and this money is potentially not going to help them,” Ms Bruce said.

Southlakes Carers previously received block funding from the government to provide its services. Under the NDIS, the funding was now provided to the clients to spend on selected services and programs through their NDIS package, she said.

Many NDIS packages made inadequate provisions for transport costs, she said. The result was that some local clients were no longer able to attend programs that, in some cases, they had been taking part in for years.

These included programs that taught valuable life skills such as how to cook meals at home, she said.

Another person in the Lake Macquarie disability care sector, who did not want to be named, said NDIS packages should take into account where a person lived.

“Transport is the elephant in the room,” they said.

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