Last night, the Federal Government announced their budget for the next financial year, outlining their policy plans for the next 12 months. We’re still digging through the detail, but there are some of the big headlines that affect advocates and the people we support.

Government ignores urgent calls for advocacy support

Unfortunately, the Government has not stepped up to the disability advocacy sector’s calls for crucially needed additional funding for individual advocacy services across the country. DANA and our members have been campaigning for an additional $91 million in advocacy funding to make sure that everyone who needs an advocate can access one.

The budget papers indicate no changes to the amount provided to the National Disability Advocacy Program, meaning current funding arrangements will continue.

This means that 1 in 2 people will still be turned away from advocacy support and that many organisations are at risk of closure or cutting staff.

This is a tremendous disappointment for all the advocacy organisations battling to support their communities. We are concerned that our members will face difficult decisions around the ongoing operation of organisations and workforce. The work of all our member organisations (and many in the community) to put the pressure on the government and highlight these issues has been nothing short of incredible. To have those requests turned down in this time of crisis and change is a very tough blow.

We’ll have more to say on next steps soon. For now, we will keep up on the pressure on the Government to step up to the plate as they respond to the Disability Royal Commission and begin to implement the NDIS Review recommendations over the coming months. Our members will receive an invite to a campaign catch-up to discuss plans shortly.

Unfortunately, similar requests for urgent funding for services like community legal centres have also had their calls for urgent funding rejected.

NDIS at the core of budget savings

Some of the biggest budget headlines relate to changes to the NDIS. The Government expects changes to the scheme to drive $14.4 billion in savings over the next 4 years, achieved primarily through the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Getting the NDIS Back on Track No. 1) Bill that was introduced in late March.

We will very shortly be providing a submission to the Senate Committee inquiry into the Bill. In this, we have expressed our deep concerns about how the proposed changes will impact people with disability who use the scheme. DANA, and many other disability organisations, will be talking to the Senate Committee next week about amendments needed to make the Bill fairer.

The Government needs to be extremely clear that these changes will not leave people in the lurch and to make sure that these changes will be led by people with disability, as DROs discussed in the initial response to the NDIS review late last year.

There is also some money for the government to implement other reforms, including:

  • $160.7 million over 4 years to upgrade the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission’s Information Technology Systems
  • $129.8 million over 2 years for design and consultation work to respond to the NDIS review.
  • Establishing an NDIS Implementation Advisory Committee and an NDIS Implementation Working Group to implement the NDIS Review.
  • $45.5 million over 4 years to establish an NDIS evidence advisory committee to provide independent and transparent advice to government about the efficacy of NDIS supports
  • $23.5 million over 2 years for fraud investigation
  • $20 million over 2 years for design and consultation work for services to help people navigate services (which sounds like the Navigator role the NDIS Review proposes)
  • $5.3 million for the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority to work with DSS and NDIA on pricing

It’s not yet clear what these processes will look like and how they will involve people with disability. The Government has committed to working together with the community to develop these changes and we urgently need to see progress on that front.

Calls to increase Disability Support Pension (DSP) and Jobseeker above the poverty line rejected again

The Federal Government has again rejected calls from the broader community sector to raise the rate of the DSP and Jobseeker. Instead, they have decided to do some very minor tweaks to Rent Assistance and Jobseeker .

People who receive rent assistance as part of their payment will get an extra 10% increase in their payments (equating to slightly more than $1/day for a single person on the highest rate). This is a drop in the bucket for the many thousands people across the country who are facing the highest rent increases on record.

People on Jobseeker who have a partial capacity to work up to 15 hours a week will now be able to access the higher rate that was only available to single parents and those over 55 previously. This will primarily affect people who meet the DSP test around their work capacity but can’t access the payment due to other criteria. Estimates suggest that this will only affect about 4,700 people and still leave them below the poverty line.

Funding for Disability Employment Service (DES) Reform

One area that has received some investment is in Disability Employment Services (DES). The government is providing $253.6 million over the next 5 years to:

  • Implement a new specialist disability employment program to replace the existing DES program by 1 July 2025
  • Establish a Disability Employment Centre of Excellence
  • Extend the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline and Complaints Resolution and Referral Service

This funding looks to implement some of the principles that the government talked about in their employment white paper. DANA and several other DROs provided a submission to that whitepaper in November last year highlighting the support needed for people with disability and we are eager to see the details of these initiatives.

Notably, this is the only area in the budget papers that responds to the findings of the Disability Royal Commission after the government delayed their response to the findings back in March.

Helpful links

Government Budget Papers and Press Releases:

Budget Paper No 2 (announcing new initiatives)

Department of Social Services Budget Statement

Bill Shorten and Amanda Rishworth Press Release: Budget delivers for People with Disability

Bill Shorten press release: Delivering on our commitment to a better NDIS

Responses from other organisations:

People with Disability Australia: Some immediate relief but little for our future

Australian Council of Social Service: This is a budget that has a hole in its heart

Antipoverty Centre: An irresponsible budget: No meaningful relief in sight for millions locked in poverty

Community Legal Centres Australia: Commonwealth’s Failure to adequately invest in community legal centres sends sector a message to plan for winding down services.

Mental Health Australia: Funding for Mental Health falls short in Federal Budget