Funding cuts to advocacy to affect those most vulnerable

Clients and staff from Cowra Special Needs Services with Ms Liesl Tesch MP (centre) Regional Manager and Advocate for Disability Advocacy NSW Sue Smidt and NDIS Appeals officer and Advocate Evie May.
Clients and staff from Cowra Special Needs Services with Ms Liesl Tesch MP (centre) Regional Manager and Advocate for Disability Advocacy NSW Sue Smidt and NDIS Appeals officer and Advocate Evie May.

Cowra Special Needs Services clients and staff have joined a number of Labor MPs, Country Labor candidate for Cootamundra Charlie Sheahan and Disability Advocacy NSW Central West in calling on the NSW Government to continue disability advocacy funding beyond July 2018. 

The state is currently proposing to roll this funding, worth $13 million, into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), however said the NDIS does not cover advocacy services.

Seven-time Australian Paralympian, Liesl Tesch MP visited Cowra Special Needs Services on Monday to discuss what potential funding cuts could mean for clients in Cowra. 

She said that potential funding cuts could mean the human rights of those with disabilities could go unprotected. 

“Our NSW Advocacy organisations are a wealth of knowledge, have strong relationships with community members, and are the first point of call for people with disabilities when they need additional support,” Ms Tesch said. 

“We have a long way to go to achieve full inclusion in Australia, and disability advocacy organisations are the vehicle to help create an accessible and inclusive society.” 

Cody Rayner, a client at Cowra Special Needs Services, said disability advocacy staff have helped her through many hardships throughout her life. 

“I just want everyone to know that DIAS (Disability Advocacy NSW) has helped me a lot in the past and I don’t want DIAS to close,” she said.

“That would make me very sad and a lot of other people with disabilities sad as well.”  

Disability Advocacy NSW is currently the only advocacy service this side of the Blue Mountains and receives approximately $190,000 per annum in state funding to cover Cowra, Bathurst, Orange, Mudgee, Parkes, Dubbo and other surrounding towns. 

Last year, Disability Advocacy NSW Central West supported 140 clients in the area, however only 25% of those clients will be eligible for a NDIS support package. 

Mr Sheahan said it was vital that more funding be put into disability advocacy, not just the NDIS. 

“Cutting advocacy funding will make it harder for local people with disability to live full and equal lives in our community, and that is just not acceptable,” he said. 

“Losing local advocacy services.. will mean that people with disability will have fewer people in their corner fighting for inclusive transport, education and employment.”

Mr Sheahan said NSW Labor has committed to providing funding for disability advocacy following the NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance Parliamentary Roundtable at State Parliament in August.