A CAMPAIGN is underway to lobby the NSW Government to finally deliver long-term, sustainable funding for independent disability advocacy in the state.
Mark Grierson, CEO of the Advocacy Law Alliance and Stand by Me campaign spokesperson, said the government’s plans to axe funding for disability advocacy, information and representation organisations from 2020 will leave people in regional areas without anywhere to turn for support and advocacy.
If the plans aren’t reversed, cuts could force advocacy services in regional areas, such as Bathurst, to close their doors.
“People with disability in regional areas like ours rely on these services to make sure we’re getting a fair deal – whether it’s advocating for improved access on public transport, protecting workplace rights, dealing with horrific cases of abuse, exploitation or discrimination, or helping them navigate the NDIS,” Mr Grierson said.
“The NSW Government’s planned cuts to disability advocacy funding will leave local people with a disability high and dry, particularly since the government closed down its disability agency in June.”
Sue Smidt, the regional manager/advocate for Disability Advocacy NSW in Bathurst, said people with disabilities and their carers rely on services like this to be their voice.
They are able to reach out on their own or can be referred to the service.
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“It’s about ensuring that people with a disability have the same rights and access in the community as people living without disability,” Ms Smidt said.
She said that the NDIS was intended to be a substitute for the advocacy services, but that hasn’t been the case.
“The NSW Government had this conception that the NDIS was going to fix all these problems that people with disability have, where it doesn’t,” Ms Smidt said.
“I would say that 75 per cent of our clients in this area aren’t even eligible for the NDIS, and it’s those people, they are still there and requiring our service.”
While the government has backtracked and agreed to provide funding to services for a further two years, Ms Smidt said, the advocacy services don’t want to get to 2020 without a further commitment from the government, making the Stand by Me campaign necessary.
“That’s why they’ve started now, so that by June, 2020, when the other funding comes to an end, we will have something in place.”
To find out more about the campaign, visit the Stand by Me website.