Greens North Coast MP and disability spokesperson Dawn Walker has lashed out at the NSW Government’s planned cuts to disability advocacy funding for the region.
Ms Walker said the move would see ‘a dramatic loss in support for people with a disability on the North Coast’.
She has called on the NSW premier and North Coast-based Nationals MP Ben Franklin to ‘urgently intervene’.
The looming cuts are due to take effect from June 2018 and Ms Walker says they ‘threaten to wipe-out’ local disability information services, DAISI (Disability and Aged Information Service Inc), based in Ballina, and Ability Advocacy in Alstonville.
The cuts are occurring because the state government is set to roll its disability advocacy services funding, worth $13 million statewide, into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). But the NDIS does not cover advocacy services, which Ms Walker says will leave ‘a major funding gap’.
‘I’m appalled that NSW Liberal-Nationals think it’s acceptable to cut core funding from our disability advocacy services that assist some of the most vulnerable people in our community with a range of everyday issues, including housing needs, service complaints and developing their NDIS applications and plans,’ Ms Walker said.
‘These heartless cuts mean organisations like DAISI and Ability Advocacy, which have been assisting people with a disability right across the North Coast for almost 20 years, will be forced to massively decrease the number of people they support, lay off staff and possibly even close altogether,’ she added
Ability Advocacy’s Alstonville manager, Doug Hollingworth, says the group employs six staff and supports approximately 120 people with disabilities in the local area.
‘These cuts would mean we would mean the loss of two staff members and we’d be forced to stop providing support to 40-50 people with disabilities who will have nowhere else to turn. We know how important our services are to local families and people with disabilities across the North Coast who will suffer as a direct result of these cuts,’ Mr Hollingworth said.
Joanne Mclean, DAISI Ballina’s CEO says it is facing ‘a huge funding cliff due to these cuts, including a dramatic loss of staff and the closure of our shopfront in Ballina’.
‘We are applying for grants and doing what we can to try and keep providing services to people with disability, but the reality is that unless the State Government maintains disability advocacy funding, our organisation is on the edge of survival,’ she said.
Ms Walker said that while the government ‘likes to crow about budget surpluses’, it ‘shows its true colours when it refuses to fund essential disability services’.
‘They use the transition to the NDIS as cover for these cuts, but other states like Victoria have stepped in to ensure that their disability advocacy funding will be maintained, despite the NDIS rollout. NSW must do the same,’ she said.
‘I’m calling on the NSW Premier and National Party MP Ben Franklin to show some heart and reverse these cruel cuts to ensure DAISI and Ability Advocacy retain their funding beyond 2018 so they can continue to support people with a disability from the Tweed down to Grafton.’
Our request for Ben Franklin to comment was not immediately returned.