NSW government urged to change stance on funding cuts to Riverina disability advocacy programs

The cuts could drive up rates of abuse and neglect for people living with a disablity across the Riverina.
The cuts could drive up rates of abuse and neglect for people living with a disablity across the Riverina.

The NSW government has been urged to reverse a decision to withdraw funding for disability advocacy services and support the rights of Riverina residents living with a disability.

As of July 1, 2018, the state government will withdraw funding for independent disability advocacy and representation programs to get the best out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and help people access independent information.

Information on Disability and Education Awareness Services (IDEAS) CEO Diana Palmer said the cuts will have huge impacts on the special-needs community.

“People with a disability in NSW have the right to access independent information and ensure that their rights and voices are heard – but it won’t happen if we don’t have advocacy and information services,” she said.

“Since the rollout of the NDIS, IDEAS has seen an increase in the amount of people looking for independent information and support services, whether it’s what supplier they use to assist them, what social activities are available in the area, or sourcing accessible travel destinations.”

According to Regional Disability Advocacy Service executive officer Martin Butcher, the cuts will create more difficulty for people with a disability to retain control over their own services.

“The whole idea is to give people with a disability a voice and control over their own support and if there’s less independent providers to help with that, it will be a lot more difficult,” he said.

“We have found more often than not that people with a disability living in places where there is no independent advocacy have higher rates of neglect and abuse.”

For The Leisure Company support worker and NSW Council for Intellectual Disability member Sarah Manley, the programs give a “neutral party that can help speak on behalf of vulnerable people”.

“No-one is really monitoring services for people with a disability – that role needs to be done from a neutral perspective, where there’s nothing to gain from someone in that situation,” she said.