CEO briefing on the impact of state and federal budgets on South-West people with disability
What do the federal and WA state budgets mean for our clients and people with disability living in the southwest?
While there was some welcome news for southwest people living with disability and their families, much more could be done. Some of our most vulnerable community members are still going to struggle to pay the bills.
The welcome news included tripling bulk billing incentives for concession card holders, reducing medicine costs for people with common chronic illnesses, increasing Rent Assistance, energy bill relief ($400 for all West Australians and an additional $426 for concession card holders), and a $40 increase to the Youth Disability Support Pension. The state government is continuing funding for the Withers project in Bunbury, to improve and refurbish existing homes, and is continuing to fund additional social housing (as is the federal government).
Unwelcome news included no increases to the DSP for most participants, a continuing lack of affordable housing and specialist disability accommodation in the regions, and no change to the unemployment rate for Australians with disability (has not shifted in thirty years). Of particular concern to Advocacy WA is that the increase to migration rates without addressing the housing shortage may put more pressure on rents. Coupled with other cost of living issues, people with disability will be more out of pocket. However, the state government has increased utilities hardship payments by 10% and promised more funding for housing development (although there does not appear to be much money put aside for disability social housing). There also appears to be limited change to the lack of transport, particularly for people in wheelchairs, in the region.
Advocacy for Inclusion’s A/g Chief Executive Officer said recently, “people with disability face a shortfall of around $824 per fortnight on conservative estimates after paying for the bare necessities of private rental housing, groceries, on demand transport, utilities and other expenses.”
On the employment front there is money to increase the capacity of the supported employment sector to support people with disability with high support needs, and to establish a disability employment advocacy and information program. The government is also designing a Disability Employment Centre of Excellence to support JobSeekers with disability, and supported employees, employers, and employment service providers. Grants are available for supported employment organisations to upskill supported employees and build the capacity of their support workforce.
On the education front, there is additional funding for the Higher Education Disability Support Program to better support students with disability to access and succeed in higher education. This includes helping to purchase equipment and modify teaching materials and delivery methods. While the state government is increasing supports for primary and secondary education students with a disability.
In general health news, the state government is developing an Infant, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service Hub in Bunbury and the federal government is investing in two new pilots to help develop evidence-based approaches for early intervention for infants with early signs of autism. This will complement the Government’s work in developing an Early Years Strategy, and the National Autism Strategy.
The Federal government is trying to reduce budget growth in the NDIS by investing in the Agency’s capability, capacity and systems, and participant outcomes. They hope to save money by increasing staff numbers at the NDIA, making NDIS plans cover a longer time period, paying providers for outcomes rather than volume, and cracking down on unethical service providers. They are also offering money to increase the flexibility of NDIS plans, and incentives for providers to be more innovative in service delivery. A big chunk of cash has been allocated to improving decision-making in supported independent living, which is where average plan costs are highest. There is also additional funding for the NDIS Commission to carry out its role in quality and safeguarding, which is welcome news to Advocacy WA as we spend a lot of time helping clients with NDIS related complaints.