It’s been a landmark year for disability policy in Australia. Not only is the community still working through the recommendations from the Disability Royal Commission, in addition last Thursday the long-awaited NDIS Review was finally released.
There’s plenty to say on the many recommendations of the review, which touch a lot of different aspects of the NDIS. To begin, we thought it might be helpful to dig out a few of the specific recommendations that relate to advocacy. Like the Royal Commission, the NDIS Review panel found that advocacy continues to play a crucial role in the health and operation of the NDIS and supporting people to navigate its complex systems.
First and foremost: one of the key recommendations at point 1.5 is the call for National Cabinet to step up and fund advocacy to ensure that everyone has access to effective advocacy services to help resolve issues that they might be experiencing. The report notes that “advocacy plays a critical role in promoting, protecting and defending the human rights of people with disability” but at the same times notes that current funding can only meet about 50% of demand.
Relevant here is that the Review has asked National Cabinet to step up here, not just the federal government alone. While there is certainly more the federal government should be funding in the advocacy space, the report specifically states that States have to step up and also contribute to the operation of advocacy. This is a positive step, as only some states meaningfully invest in disability advocacy while others mainly defer to the federal government to step in – meaning more people in those states miss out.
The review also sees a specific value in systemic advocacy to represent LGBTIQA+SB people with disability, noting that there is a gap in the current array of services and representative organisations working in this area. While many organisations do a great deal of positive work in this space, a specific body embodied and powered by people with direct lived experience of disability and LGBTIQA+SB identities could do a great deal to highlight the specific issues faced by these communities. A call for all Australian governments to set up such a body is included at point 1.6.
The report also calls on the Department of Social Services and the NDIA at 5.2. to ensure that people with cognitive disability or complex communication support needs are appropriately connected to capacity building support. Advocacy organisations have a role to play in this space, as the recommendation asks that these bodies adequately provide for self-advocacy and peer-support groups. This is crucial to implementing the principles of supported decision-making across all levels of government services.
Where to next?
More broadly, it’s clear that the NDIS review is just a starting point on a whole range of conversations. The next few years will hopefully be a collaborative process between people with disability who rely on the scheme and governments to implement big changes like the shift to foundational supports, changing the ways in which providers do or do not have to be registered, and changes around eligibility to the scheme and assessing what supports a person needs in their plan.
It’s for this reason that DANA has developed a proposal currently before the government to immediately and substantially increase funding to the sector. While Advocates can do great work with the right resources, at the moment the sector is massively overstretched and having to turn away 1 in 2 people who request more support. You can find out more information and get involved at speakupadvocacy.com.au.