5 FEBRUARY 2024
Not all the urgent changes needed will happen overnight, and indeed those structural and attitudinal changes will require consultation, solutions testing and time to get right.
The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (Disability Royal Commission or DRC) delivered a Final Report that runs to 12 volumes, 5000 pages and 222 recommendations. With the recent conclusion of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) review, DANA appreciates that there is now a mammoth and complex law and policy reform process ahead for Australian governments and communities.
Independent disability advocacy
The important role of independent disability advocacy is reflected throughout the DRC final report volumes, in many references to submissions made by, or with the support of, disability advocacy organisations and the many ways disability advocates defend human rights, promote safety and support inclusion in the daily lives of Australians with disability.
At present, the advocacy sector faces massive challenges from lack of funding to service demand. Approximately half of people with disability who seek support from advocates are turned away due to lack of available advocates – and this number is only indicative of services demanded, not services required overall. The current funding campaign called Speak Up! for Independent Advocacy is urging the Australian government to significantly increase funding for independent advocacy organisations who directly support people with disability.
Advocates and advocacy organisations have detailed insights and expertise around the shortcomings of current safeguarding bodies and can play a significant role in helping to provide information and insight to relevant authorities. Advocates also regularly serve as a key point of contact for people who are in closed settings or who otherwise lack a family or social network. When developing these new safeguarding systems, we believe that Advocacy organisations can offer significant knowledge and assistance. Ensuring that advocacy bodies are consulted with as part of the implementation council (part of any safeguarding working group) is key to ensure that the promise of these recommendations is secured.
Housing has been identified as an emerging issue for disability advocates over the past 12 months with an increase in the number of people with disability reporting they are currently at risk of homelessness. This includes those sleeping rough or couch surfing. Many of the issues experienced by advocates in supporting people with disability is outlined in DANA’s submission to the National Housing and Homelessness Plan.
Improving and increasing the amount of housing stock should also be a high priority. The Government should also ensure that all new social and community housing is constructed in line with the higher voluntary Australian Building Code Board Liveable Housing Design Standard (as per recommendation 7.35 of the DRC). This is particularly necessary given the significant amount of investment in public housing required to provide options to people who are not able to participate in the private market, as well as to provide a meaningful counterbalance to the inflationary pressures of the private market (see our recent blog post about this: People with disability are missing out on homes.)
DANA looks forward to many opportunities to help coordinate efforts across the disability advocacy sector for stronger laws and policy and improved systems to respond to and prevent violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability.