Cost Benefit analysis of Disability Advocacy Report Launch

This was the second session at the Advocacy sector Conversations forum held at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre on 28 November 2017.

Other sessions at this forum included:


 

 

Overview

Melanie Muir, President of Disability Advocacy victoria, introduced Mary Mallett, CEO at Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA), who presented the findings from the research that investigated the true cost of disability advocacy Australia wide. This ground-breaking research was supported by Leadership Plus, Disability Advocacy Victoria (DAV), VALID and Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO).

 

 

References mentioned in  this session:

 

Transcript

 

MELISSA HALE, DARU CO-ORDINATOR:
So the next presenter, I would like to ask Melanie Muir from Disability Advocacy Victoria to talk about DANAs project.  Welcome Melanie.

MELANIE MUIR, DISABILITY ADVOCACY VICTORIA:
Thank you and welcome.  It’s really good to see so many people here.  I know it’s hard for you to take time out of your work and come along to things like this.  I really would encourage you to use the resources that DARU work very hard to provide for you.

I represent Leadership Plus and I sit on the board of Disability Advocacy Victoria, which is the peak organisation for disability advocacy in Victoria.  I have been asked to introduce Mary Mallett today because DAV, Disability Advocacy Victoria and Leadership Plus were very excited when Mary started talking about the idea of getting down some research about why advocacy was so important.

DAV went into its wallet and started saving some coins and provided some money to DANA.  Leadership Plus did the same they gathered some money together and gave it to DANA because while we know day to day that our clients appreciate the work that we do most clients appreciate the work that we do a lot of families appreciate the work that we do, agencies that we work with appreciate some of the outcomes that we get for people.

Some of the changes that are made are significant and have an impact on many people.  They’re not always well articulated and the cost benefit analysis is a way to show Government and others that the work that advocacy agencies, you and I do every day, the value of that work.  It’s a fantastic piece of research with a great dollar outcome as it turns out.  For your one dollar you get three dollars fifty back.

I would like to introduce Mary Mallett and thank her for the work that she’s done in leading the sector around some of the definitive ideas of advocacy and why it’s so important in these times when everything seems to be challenged.  Thank you Mary.

MARY MALLETT, DISABILITY ADVOCACY NETWORK AUSTRALIA:
Thanks Melanie and it’s very nice to be  back at an advocacy sector forum in Melbourne.  A pleasure to reconnect with lots of good people working down here in the advocacy sector.  It’s always just this great reminder to me that and you just need to be so aware of it there is not an equivalent to this in any other state.  There isn’t a DARU anywhere else.  When Llewellyn was asking the questions earlier, I honestly think Victorian organisations don’t realise how lucky they are that the Victorian Government does fund DARU and SARU.  It just doesn’t happen,  there is nothing else like this anywhere else for the opportunity for the advocacy organisations to get together and have not huge resources but some dedicated resources to the advocacy sector.  Just make sure you appreciate it.

So like Melanie said, DANA had realised for some time that every time we went and talked to Federal politicians or anybody really, anybody we were trying to influence about the value of funding independent advocacy, there was a gap.  Because we had nothing, there was no proof that had been – there had been no work done either in Australia or internationally that had done a cost benefit analysis of advocacy.  There is some research around advocacy but most of it is qualitative.  It’s mostly collections of stories.

All of the advocacy organisations every year usually in your annual report you have a few more stories and case studies.  So we’ve got lots of that kind of information and we all understand that independent advocacy is important but really we were looking for some kind of proof.

We had spoken to the Federal Department of Social Services about this and over time they were coming around to perhaps thinking about funding some work.  Then one of my board members, Fiona May from ADACAS in Canberra happened to be at a presentation in the ACT by these economists showing a cost benefit analysis they did for an Aboriginal mediation service.  She realised they were the right people to use and the time it would’ve taken for DSS to make a decision and the process we would’ve had to go through would’ve taken a long time.

We just decided to ask around in the advocacy sector to see if there were enough organisations who were prepared to put in a bit of money and cover the costs and that’s what they did.  So these are the people, Professor Anne Daly is the Professor of Economics at the University of Canberra.  She is a member of NATSAN, I can’t remember what the acronym stands for.  It’s a national thing that economists belong to.  Greg Barrett is an economist who used to lecture at the University of Canberra.  He doesn’t lecture now and deliberately does this freelance work and then Ryan Williams was the researcher who did all the liaison backwards and forwards.

They were incredibly good to work with and this piece of work cost $34,000.00.  That’s I have to say cheap for the amount of time they spent and the result that we got they basically – it’s mates rates.  If we were – you could pay three four times that amount of money for exactly the same product actually.  Anyway, partly it’s because they sort of believe in supporting the kind of work that we’re doing.

So what we ended up with was this is the full document, its 112 pages.  I only have two copies with me.  Melanie did ask me was it a mirage, was there a full document at all but it does exist and I have two copies.  Then we have the versions that most people will use which are and they’re in your papers today.  So there’s a two-page document.  These are all on the DANA website under publications.  This two-page document is an accessible Pdf so it can be read by screen readers.  And then the easy English version.   Again, because we had no spare money the easy read translation was done for us by Speak Out one of the Tasmanian advocacy organisations who did it just as a favour for me.

We didn’t have any room unfortunately on the two-page summary to put all the logos so that’s a shame.  But on the easy read and on the full document it does have the logos of the organisations who helped to fund the piece of work.  So there are three of them are Victorian, DAV, Valid and Leadership Plus.  ADAA Australia in Queensland that’s Age and Disability Advocacy Australia.  ADACAS from ACT.  PWD, which is a national organisation but provides advocacy in NSW and Queensland.  Physical Disability Council NSW is PDCN.  Speak Out from TAS and AFTO based in Victoria but a national organisation.

Then there were a few others who didn’t put any money in but did help considerably providing case studies and doing some of the work.  EDAC, which is an ethnic disability organisation in WA.  Intellectual Disability Rights Service in NSW, Queensland Advocacy Inc. and Deafness Forum of Australia who I just happen to share the office with so they by default end up helping me which is very kind of them.

So to my mind it’s an incredible thing that at a time when the advocacy sector itself actually all around the country is fairly under threat, overwhelmed with work, relatively uncertain of its future for many of the funding sources but at the same time was prepared to put in bits of money they could afford to produce something substantial.

I should’ve asked first is anybody in the room a trained economist?

[laughter]

Good.  When we first started this Greg Barrett came into the DANA office and sat with me for hours on end several times.  He could’ve been speaking a foreign language.  It took me many many meetings for me to get him to understand really what advocacy was about and for me to get a glimmer of understanding of the language that economists use, the way they think about things.

Obviously what it is is a way of working out the value of something that you can’t easily put a value to.  So Governments use it and now that I understand a little bit more about cost benefit analysis I do see it all the time in the paper.  Just recently when the NSW Government announced they’re going to spend I can’t remember how many billions, replacing sports stadiums that they don’t need to replace the cost benefit analysis for that is in the negative.  In other words there is no benefit.  For every dollar they spend they will lose money.

It’s a useful thing to me now to have this tiny little bit of understanding because it makes this piece of work more useful if we can wave it around every time somebody, a Government demonstrates how they’re wasting money.

This is the economist speak stuff.  That term the aggregate NPV, the NPV is the net present value of independent advocacy.  The way – so what they do is they attach a monetary value to the work that advocates do.  They do that by looking at how much it saves in the systems that advocates work in.  In the larger document and I do recommend that it’s worth, this can be your holiday reading for all of you when sitting on a beach somewhere print out a copy of this and take it with you.

The way they do it they work out all these values, they cost them ten years ahead into the future.  Now don’t ask me why they do any of these things I’m just telling you what they do.  They work out how much it costs for ten years into the future.  They then discount that because it’s something they keep telling me a dollar you spend in the future is worth less than the dollar you spend today.  Then they use a thing called sensitivity analysis.

They do all of these things each of which brings the value down.  The whole point of that is because as a piece of research and a piece of work if we are over stating the value of what advocacy does then it can be dismissed.  Anybody who is actually a trained economist, if they said right for every dollar you spend on advocacy Government save ten dollars, economists would say that’s ridiculous that’s not possible because they understand that there are all these other factors that come into account.

Anyway they use all these other ways of discounting that are – they don’t just make it up.  Economics is a discipline that has its own rules, it has its own language its own way of doing things.  In here there are pages if you want to read it that describe exactly the methodology they follow.  I don’t understand it and I won’t bore you by trying to read it out.  You just have to be assured that it is valid.

So then they looked at what advocates, they looked at the data they used actually was the federally funded organisation so the National Disability Advocacy Program, the NDAP data.

They have to use something that’s in the public domain and the last time the DSS made that available publically was 2013 to 2014, that data.  So that’s what they had to use.  Now that’s a few years ago and it means there weren’t very many NDIS issues being advocated on at that time.  What it means ideally is we would do within another couple of years, we would do some kind of update to this that relooked at the same issues but included more NDIS issues in it.  It doesn’t make much difference though, it makes no difference to the value outcome.

Actually I should point that out first, I think I did – I just separated out a little bit on this next slide because the middle sentence there about the benefit cost ratio being 3.5 to 1 which is high compared to other investments.  Now the way that’s put, myself I like reading the easy read version, because it’s in words of one syllable and it makes sense to me.  We had to think about it was the economists had never done something before where they had to explain something in easy read information about what they do.

They found it incredibly interesting as well that in that – you do have this in your papers, trying to work through how you explain to people with intellectual disability who this is primarily aimed at sort of a translation of the main elements in the document.  But then what it is, there is a useful thing, which is one of the pages, is a good description in easy read about what advocates do.  We only discovered that afterwards it wasn’t an intention it just worked out like that.  So I’ve separated that out and put it on our website and called it What do Advocates do because it’s useful.

Then it describes where advocates get money, it comes from the Commonwealth or some from State or Territory Government except in South Australia where they don’t fund any state funded advocacy and Governments have to pay for a while lot of other things.  What economists do is they hope Governments work out if they’re getting a good deal.

The economists found for every dollar the Government spends on advocates they save $3.50 for everyone in the community.  It’s $3.50 that they don’t have to spend on other systems.  In our explanation of this we have imagine if you saved a dollar with the bank and the bank paid you $3.50 for saving the money with them you would be getting a good deal.  The initial way the economists described that was imagine if you gave a dollar to your advocate and they gave you $3.50 back.  I made them take that out I said I don’t want every advocate being hounded by their clients to ask them for $3.50 so we changed that.

But it is a nice clean way to explain it and the two-page summary has a lot more in-depth about describing what a cost benefit analysis does and why they discount it into the future.  The only bit to be perfectly honest, the bit that we would all use over and over again is the bit in the middle, the bit about the ratio of 3.5 to 1.  If they’ve got it in at the end actually, if anybody wants some information about why that’s a good outcome they describe that at the bottom of this two-page summary.

In a recent OECD publication a ratio below 1 is considered poor, a ratio between 1 and 1.5 is low, between 1.5 and 2 is medium and a ratio above 2 is high.  That stuff comes from – that’s a World Bank estimate.  So the World Bank when they’re funding things this is what they say, anything above a ratio of 1 to 2 is high, that’s why it demonstrates it’s a good outcome.

In the larger paper it’s useful for lots of things.  It had case studies scattered through it and to highlight the particular systems.  They were all longer case studies that were shortened and abbreviated.  If I was to do this again I would prefer to do them in another way.  They’re a bit clinical and analytical.  I’m personally a bit uncomfortable that we’ve described people and their issues in this very objective clinical sort of way of looking at them.  I think if we do an update or some other work on this, we would work with people with disability and get them to describe their issues in the way they want to describe them.  That would be a change I would do for another time.

There are a couple of ways you can do these things.  We’ve scattered case studies through it but we didn’t cost out each case study.  You will sometimes see similar work done in that way because it’s a way you can work out how much a piece of advocacy costs.  You can work out how many hours an advocacy has spent on an issue over six months or a year, whatever it is.  Then how much the actual direct cost of that piece of advocacy versus the savings for the system.  It wasn’t how this was done, it was done using publically available data on all of the different systems.  Of course the systems where you save the most money are the most expensive systems.  The health system and the justice system bar far are the expensive systems.  The work that advocates do in those areas are the ones that demonstrate the value.

We wanted this to be available and useful for every advocacy organisation.  In the case studies we took out – some of them say what State or Territory they were in but they don’t reference what advocacy organisation it was or what type of advocacy and that’s deliberate because we want everybody to be able to pick up and use this and not – for other people then they can’t say that was X organisation or you don’t advocate like that or whatever.  We’ve made it as much as possible, we’ve made it fairly unidentifiable so that it’s useful for everyone.

One of the other useful things about this document, Greg when he got into it, just researched – he has a bibliography in the middle of it that goes for pages.  It has every piece of research about advocacy that’s ever been done in every country mostly English speaking but there is a couple from other countries as well.  It’s incredibly useful.  I think what will happen over time is we will be able to get more pieces of research done by students, Master students or PhD students to pick up and do some more research on advocacy.  He’s done – they almost don’t have to do a literature review to start, he’s done it.

Unfortunately in the advocacy sector there is so little time for any of this.  I keep thinking I must go and look at that I must read it and I just haven’t got time.  But I’m very pleased that he has pulled it together and all of us over time will be able to go back and look to see those pieces of work.

So he has shown in there how in each of those systems he’s costed exactly why advocacy saves the police or saves the courts or saves money for all the systems.  Now most of those systems are state systems.  It’s actually the State Governments that advocacy generally is saving the money for.  The money does flow through from the Commonwealth but it’s in the state budgets that those systems are funded out of.  And whether or not that’s state funded advocacy or federally funded advocacy because there is no difference, the work that’s done is the same.  We didn’t particularly highlight that here.

Llewellyn’s presentation earlier on about the data was interesting because in most states there is almost no – in the state funding advocacy sector there is almost no data because many of the states don’t collect it at all.  Victoria does collect quite a bit and it has been gathered together by DARU and VCOSS to present the information back again.  But that’s not true in most other states and that’s why we had to use the NDAP data but that also isn’t perfect.  There is no data in the federal funding about what gender the clients are.  That’s madness but they’ve never asked so nobody has ever told them.  Now the advocacy organisations have it in their databases so we could go back and ask them but for some peculiar reason it’s never been asked.

There’s plenty of other things I want to mention.  Is there any questions anybody would like to ask about the process or what we found out or anything else otherwise I will go onto how it’s being used.

[no questions asked]

Because DANA has almost no money we haven’t done any kind of flash big event to launch this thing.  We’re sort of launching it sequentially in every state.  We had a bit of a launch at the ADACAS AGM in Canberra and the economists because they were based in Canberra were able to come and speak to it.  They are happy to do media.  If any of the Victorian organisations or DARU or DAV, anybody else wants to use it in some way including in the media then Professor Anne Daly is perfectly happy to do media interviews and to talk about the economics side of it.  We will try and get her to do some of that at a national level.

But it is already being used by the state by the advocacy organisations in the states that are campaigning about their advocacy funding.  In actual fact a draft version of it that we provided into DSS was shown, this is some time ago now, was shown to the Ministers office and helped to get across the line that the NDAP funding should be extended out for another couple of years.  That was an early draft, we were nowhere near finished at that point.  But the current federal minister is an economist, he is an economist and a lawyer.  I think there are reasons why you need these things because some of the people who make the decisions do understand what this value is about.

However, the other lesson that we’re using now as the organisations start to use it for lobbying is that what we’ve done and created is a piece of what we would see as proof of the value of advocacy.  But politicians don’t necessarily make evidence based decisions, do they.  They make political decisions depending on what particular marginal seats want or whatever it is.  What I’m sort of realising is even though this is useful and will be useful it’s just one little part of the tool kit that we need for lobbying governments to persuade them to keep funding advocacy.

We’ve got stories and we can use stories and have individuals with disability ideally who are prepared to speak up on behalf of the advocacy sector.  From a politicians perspective when they get a group of advocates to come and talk to them they think it’s a bit self-serving.  They think this is just the advocates wanting to maintain their jobs or something.  You’ll see I’m going to show you something in a second about what the interstate organisations are doing around campaigning about their funding because they’ve taken two different angles on it.

I’m just going to show you this is a terrible slide I apologise in advanced because it’s not terribly clear.  This is the picture of advocacy funding in Australia.  Second last line from the bottom that’s the National Disability Advocacy Program from DSS, the federal funding.  That’s $18 million a year extending out to well, it currently ends end of June 2020 but that is ongoing at the same level.  It was $16 ½ million it’s only recently gone up to $18 million.  That does not include the NDIS appeals funding that’s separate and it’s not available for generic advocacy anyway so I haven’t put it in there.

Then this column down here, this is the funding that is, I dated that September, the funding that is available in every state and territory for advocacy.  But it’s under a category called advocacy information and print disability.  It’s all in almost every Government signed it over in their bilateral agreement to go back to the Commonwealth.  In Victoria that was done a little differently because the money was broken up a bit differently.  I will come to that in a second.

So it means as the NDIS rolls out fully in every state that money disappears.  NSW its $10.9 million plus there is an extra couple of million which is provided to some of the organisations that are called State Peaks.  So Physical Disability Council is one, NSW Council for Intellectual Disability, People with Disability, PWDA some of their funding, NSW funding is as a state peak.  So there is about another $2 million.  In NSW it’s about $13 million.  That all stops at the end of June next year.

They are busily campaigning, they’re using this cost benefit analysis as one of the things that they’re trying to demonstrate to the NSW Government why they should keep funding them but they’ve also started some campaigns.  They’ve formed an alliance, the NSW Disability Advocacy alliance.  They’re on Twitter as @StandByMeNSW so there is a website www.standbyme.org.au and this is their logo, banner.  Stand by me don’t ditch disability advocacy.

NSW Council for Intellectual Disability had their own campaign that they were planning anyway which was called Don’t Silence Us.  On this Stand By Me there is one of those change.org petitions.  The CRD have a similar thing under the Don’t Silence Us one.  They are all a part of the Stand by Me it’s just they’ve got their own thing happening as well.

What’s happening is the Government won’t engage with them so it’s very difficult to advocate and fight about an issue if you can’t get at the people that you want to advocate to.  The NSW Minister has stopped meeting with any of them, the NSW Premier won’t meet with any of them.  The NSW Minister doesn’t generally respond to the media, he gets the department to respond and they spout complete rubbish all the time.  They just say there will be increased funding for disability advocacy when the NDIS comes in.  It’s not true, it isn’t true and the organisations keep refuting it.  One of them described to me recently just before he kind of stopped meeting with anyone.  They had a 45-minute meeting with him.  He said some stuff and they had to keep saying with respect Minister and they would tell him the truth.  He would say other rubbish and they would say with respect Minister.

That’s how things are going and in NSW there isn’t an election.  There is no reason for the Government, there is nothing that’s going to force the Government to change its mind except continual lobbying and that may – I think everybody in NSW and the organisations and myself we can’t actually believe the Government will drop it.  But they may make the organisations keep fighting so that it gets so close to June next year and as you can imagine their boards are having to make decisions now as to what do they do with their leases, what do they do with their staff, do they give them three months’ notice whatever.  They’re having to make these decision  now and contrast to that is what’s happened in Queensland.

Sorry, one other thing the NSW organisations are arguing for all of the money, they want to try and keep all of that money.  Of the $10.9 million about $6.5 million is used by organisations that we would all consider our advocacy or advocacy and information organisations.  The rest of it is given to other organisations some of which are providers but like the Deaf Society of NSW as an example it’s a big provider and it is registered under the NDIS and that’s where it’s business will be.  But they traditionally have always had some information service money through the NSW Government.  They’re trying to fight to keep the whole lot of it.

In Queensland the organisations there have set up a website called www.advocacymatters.org.  They just used this slogan Advocacy Matters but they’ve got a couple of fancy orange things on their website.  But Queensland of course has just had an election so that means the Queensland organisations they have a way of getting at the politicians.

So Queensland is $13 million but only about $2 million is actually given to direct advocacy organisations.  Those advocacy organisations got together and they just argued for their bit of it.  They didn’t try and argue for the whole money they just argued for the bit that was going to the advocacy organisations.  Now they’ve had a win in that Annastacia Palas Government just got in again and they did get an election promise out of her to continue advocacy funding for $4.1 million.  It’s not entirely clear what that will include and we don’t know how long it will go for.  Anyway they’re in a better position than NSW is.

However if you consider that all of the rest of that money was in some way being used for some kind of systemic organisations and the kind of organisations would be say the MS Societies or the epilepsy organisations or the autism organisations, those broader groups that don’t do necessarily individual advocacy like your organisations do but they’re still part of the bigger picture systemic advocacy for people with disability.  So there is still a significant loss in Queensland that will happen as of end of June 2019.

Western Australia I’ve left it in because we have no idea what they’re doing.  They, Western Australia tendered out their advocacy a couple of years ago.  They don’t fund systemic advocacy.  They consciously deliberately don’t allow any Western Australian funded organisation state funded organisation to do systemic advocacy.  Complete ban they have to only use it for individual advocacy.   They are reviewing it now, it doesn’t appear to be public we don’t know how they’re reviewing it.  I’ve left it in but I don’t know how it will continue, we hope it does.

South Australia, there is $1.9 million which will disappear at the end of June but none of those are individual advocacy organisations it’s again the broader spectrum of organisations.  Same in Tasmania, $2.3 of which about a million goes to advocacy organisations and stops at the full roll out end of June 2019.

ACT the $1.4 million it’s continuing at the moment on a 12 months basis, we don’t know if it will keep continuing and again none of that is for individual advocacy, it’s small amounts to small organisations like PWD ACT.  Tiny amounts of money.  Northern Territory a small amount of money anyway and again will stop at the full roll out.

You can see the total amount of money right now that’s being spent in the broad advocacy sector of $63.4 million across the country, dropping down to $28.6 here, I need to add the Queensland $4 million back in so that will bring it up to about $30.  Anyway, it’s a huge loss overall at a time when the sector – the NDIS is causing this amazing shift in the sector.  People with disability are floundering and their families, absolutely floundering in struggling with dealing with the new system and it’s not as if all the other systems have magically got better.  They’re just as bad as ever.

It’s extremely difficult to get any attention on this because it’s a joint national and state and territory issue.  So the person who I suppose the Federal Government care in their own way.  What they’ve done is they’ve extended their funding they haven’t put any extra money in it but they have at least extended it out until June 2020.  It provides a little bit of security for those organisations.  What they had been going to do was they had been going to tender it out.  They’ve pulled back from that and at least continued it and provided a little bit of security.

I don’t know if any of you remember but when they announced that they came out there was a media release that came out from Minister Porter and Minister Prentis, Jane Prentis is the Disability Minister, Christian Porter is the Senior Cabinet Minister.  They put out a fairly strongly worded media release a bit unusual from a Federal Minister actually because they were saying to the State Governments you have to keep funding this.  They praised the Victorian Government, which must have nearly killed him to do that, but he did.  He praised the Victorian Government for continuing to fund advocacy.

However, not long after that I discovered to my horror because I had been presuming everything was safe in Victoria and it isn’t true.  In Victoria the total amount of money spent in advocacy information and print disability is $9.1 million.  But the amount – this $2.9 is what sits under the Office for Disability.  So that’s the – is it 22 organisations that are funded under the Office for Disability, yeah.  So it’s straightforward advocacy.  But this money includes – some of them are the same organisations actually, then some are other organisations, that have funding that happened just happens to sit under a slightly different category.  For anybody who is interested it’s in the national minimum data set, 6.01 is advocacy, 6.02 is advocacy and information.  There would be no particular reason why some of the organisations got their funding classified under one or the other.

Victoria was the only state that at some point and I don’t know the history of this at some stage it got split up in Victoria and the straightforward pure advocacy maybe we call it went to the Office for Disability.  The rest of it sits somewhere else and it’s going to disappear.  Even though I hear and see your Minister patting himself on the back continuously about how supportive he is about advocacy and it’s true he is but there is still $6 million of the broader sector funding which includes some organisations I don’t know if anybody in the room, but certainly some that are losing.  So an organisation that yep –

AUDIENCE PARTICIPANT:
That’s right the impact is quite significant because there are some agencies who are very small and rely on that information money so that information money is going.  They’ll be left with 0.4 of what they’ve had in their budget.  They can’t employ the staff or pay their rent so the significance of the withdrawal of those funds could potentially and does potentially mean for a number of organisations that they will not be able to continue to provide a service and will close.

MARY MALLETT:
So I think we actually need to for Victoria literally pull that together, work out exactly which organisations are at risk.  Some of them may be organisations who actually are service providers and therefore their clients will move into the NDIS they will be covered sufficiently under there.  But we do need to find out pretty soon, which are the information and advocacy organisations that are actually at risk.  Because this money won’t be replaced by anything else so the NDIS doesn’t fund advocacy in peoples plans and the ILC is the thing that all the State Governments who are taking this money away,  they’ve kept saying to the advocacy organisations you can get money under the ILC.  The ILC isn’t available yet in Victoria, it will be by next year.  Right now it’s open in NSW, South Australia and ACT.  But it’s a limited pool of money and it’s open only part of it.

I was discussing this with Anna earlier on, only part of it anyway is available for information because it does a range of other things and it’s extremely competitive.  If you look at the list of who got ILC funding in the first couple of rounds, a couple of advocacy organisations did indeed get project funding.  It is just a project, it’s not recurrent. They can do some good work but it doesn’t replace recurrent funding.

The other organisations that got it were Universities for example.  I know quite a few more sort of corporate or business organisations that are now starting to apply for ILC.  Anyway, it’s problematic.  The ILC clearly won’t be enough money.  There’s sort of a gap.  Something that didn’t happen exactly in the transition to the ILC which was the State Governments were meant to provide to the NDIA in detail who they funded and what they funded them for so that the ILC people inside the NDIA I think could do some mapping about what was at risk of being lost.

Some of the Governments did that well and some did it very badly.  NSW I think in particular provided almost nothing I think.  I don’t know about Victoria.  Anyway, it doesn’t match up and advocacy and information is one of the things that is kind of disappearing into this hole really because the ILC doesn’t fund advocacy, it’s excluded.

So what I find when I try and discuss this stuff with the NDIA the senior people in the NDIA they look at it with interest but it’s not their responsibility.  They were never meant to fund advocacy.  They think oh yes that’s interesting and that’s it.  The Federal level, Federal Government say we’ve done our bit, we’ve extended our funding for the next couple of years we can dust our hands and pat ourselves on our backs.  The State Governments who are withdrawing their funding they just say but it’s part of our bilateral agreement we’re handing the money over.

They are all of course winding up their disability departments so everybody who works in their departments and knew anything about anything including advocacy will be gone.  Anyway, it comes down to this kind of political fight which by the look of it in Victoria you’re going to have to pick up and do as well to work out how much of that $9 million is going to have an impact and the organisations who will be at risk will then have to pick up and start campaigning.

I think you do have an election in Victoria next year somebody said about a year away so that’s good.  That’s actually the perfect opportunity to get election promises out of both sides that they will continue funding that information funding.  But what you can’t do is you can’t let the Victorian Government keep getting away with saying oh but we’re good, we’re saving advocacy because it’s only part of the picture.  They have to understand what’s going to be lost.

Any of you who are interested in this stuff I’m happy for anybody to contact me to discuss it further if you’re interested in campaigning lobbying any of the influence stuff because it’s difficult in every state.  This stuff isn’t easy.  It’s hard to find allies and it’s hard to get the ear of people.  That’s a very long winded way of coming back to the thing about the cost benefit analysis is one useful thing to be able to show these politicians to say we need to keep funding this money and we’re showing you that it is good value.  But they make decisions based on many other reasons.  The cost benefit analysis just means that it’s one less thing that they can kind of wriggle out of because you are showing them, a solid validated piece of evidence that shows they are not wasting their money when they fund disability advocacy.  That’s about the best you can do really.

There is something else that I want to mention and I don’t know if some of you know Patrick from AFDO but Patrick McGee is the policy and advocacy manager at AFDO.  Patrick and I have been very heavily involved for the last little while around the national disability insurance schemes, quality and safeguarding commission.

Some of you may have paid attention some of you may not have.  There is a quality NDIS framework that came out just early December last year.  They had done consultations and stuff.  There is whole lot of information in there some of the stuff about advocacy is peculiarly written.  That was the framework.  Then what they’ve been doing since then is DSS have created the amendments to the NDIS act to bring into being the Quality and Safeguarding Commission.

I know in Victoria you have to kind of split yourselves in two when you think about this because the Victorian Government is doing its own quality and safeguarding work as well, I know that.  Everywhere else basically all the other state governments are just handing over to the Commonwealth but Victoria isn’t.  Victoria is pushing hard on its own quality and safeguarding.

Somehow you have to divide your brain in two and think about the federal stuff Quality and Safeguarding Commission and think about how the Victorian system is playing out as well.

This is just about the Federal one.  The Quality and Safeguarding Commission, this legislation was meant to go before the Senate last week and they pulled it at the last minute.  Anyway, it will probably come up this week or next.  I’m looking at Patrick because he might know maybe, anyway.  It basically has to be passed before the end of the year because they have to get this Quality and Safeguarding Commission up.

If you see up there South Australia and NSW are the two states who by 1st July 2018 the NDIS will have fully rolled out, it already has of course in the ACT.  That means by the 1st July next year this Quality and Safeguarding Commission has to be in existence.  They have already started recruiting the positions.  There will be an overall commissioner, the quality and safeguarding commissioner.  Underneath him or her there will be three roles.  The national complaints commissioner, the national registrar and the national senior practitioner.

The national complaints commissioner will deal with complaints obviously and the registrar will deal with the registration of providers plus with serious incidents.  Then the senior practitioner will deal with restrictive practices except only in a role modelling kind of way.  So organisations will still have to – if a service provider in Victoria wants to use restrictive practices they have to apply to the Victorian system to get those restrictive practices authorised and then they have to notify the national senior practitioner that they’ve done that and there will be a circular kind of process.

The other main function thing that’s still staying at state level is worker screening. Worker screening will still be done in every state by that states current system.  Though I think they’ll all move to being more like each other.

So the legislation is done more or less.  A lot of the work that we have been doing in the background is lobbying basically to get some amendments to the legislation.  In particular to get independent advocacy written into the bill.  It hasn’t gone through Parliament yet but I think we feel like we’ve had a victory.  They have now drafted several places where independent advocacy will get written into the bill and there will be a written definition of independent advocacy in the bill.  That’s a big achievement because independent advocacy in Australia is not written into legislation in many places at all.  Fingers crossed it will go through without too much hassle.

As I said it’s still in the background because these are amendments that are to go through.  They’re sort of agreed in the background at the moment so it looks like they will go through.

The next thing that happens is in many places in the legislation it just says this legislation may have rules to deal with whatever.  There are bundles of these rules, which have a lot of detail in them.  They’re out now for limited circulation.  They’re not up on the DSS website for circulation.  However, any of you who are interested in looking at any of these rules I’m perfectly happy to email them to you and get you to give me some feedback.  We have to have the feedback back to DSS by the 14th December.

So there are rules about the NDIS code of conduct.  There is a consultation report about the code of conduct.  There’s draft guidelines for workers and draft guidelines for providers I think around the code of conduct and there is rules around the code of conduct.  There is a set of rules around protection and disclosure of information.  There’s provider registration and practice standards.  There is another document that is the practice standards.  There is the complaints rules, there is incident management and reportable incidents.  There is provider registration and practice standards and behaviour support rules.

So these – you know earlier on when we were having the discussion earlier and somebody was saying about how they wish there was a place where you could easily get all the legislation and rules that you needed about an issue that you were working on.  Well this process has kind of made me realise that this is just one thing this is just the rules about this one commission.  There’s an enormous amount of detail and once they’re all in place advocates will be dealing with this on an everyday basis about clients you have that have complaints that need to go to the commission or when there is reportable incidents whatever it is.

Advocates will be involved in all of this and the behaviour support rules are a particular one that they I think what I heard that they did them once sent them out or at least did limited circulation and then pulled them back in because they were completely wrong I think.  They’ve now come back out again.

So there’s a whole lot of stuff here.  Patrick and I and the other person we’re working with is Therese Sands from the DPOA, Disabled Persons Organisation Australia.  Theresa is originally from PWD but now with DPOA.  And we are wading through this stuff and Patrick has coordinated a meeting with the union sometime soon to get our heads around where we are on the same page, which mostly we are on some of these issues.

So if anybody has any interest, you don’t have to read all of them but if you’re particularly interested in the complaints or in behaviour support or the critical incidents, the reportable incidents one, I’ll email it to you you can read it share it among the advocates at your office.  But also I’m happy to send you the whole lot.  As I said the department they write limited circulation on the top.  I can’t put them up publically.  We can’t – they don’t go out publically for this.  But they are happy I think for us to send them to people who are interested.  Even if you only want to read one of them and then come back and give me two comments on it, I would be grateful for any input.  You will end up having to deal with this stuff.

I am aware as I said in Victoria that it’s a bit more complicated here because the Victorian Government is doing its own – has a different way of looking at some of this, which I think is because they want to influence probably the way the national thing operates and the way other states and territories are doing things.

What I don’t have, I don’t have a clear picture in my mind at the minute of what happens in Victoria when this Quality and Safeguarding Commission comes into place because in every state and territory the system is different.  For instance I don’t know where the Disability Services Commission in Victoria, does that just slide over, does it wind up basically.  My expectation is that it will because it seems to me the functions that the DSC does will be replaced by the functions of this new Commission.  So in some states some of those functions are done by the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman would continue because they do other things.

It’s something that somebody who has any time needs to put together ideally for Victoria what is going to happen, what’s the transition process.  I don’t know is there a – there must be a Victorian NDIS Transition something, Advisory Group or a thing, a committee or something, is there?  Are any of you on it?  Where does it sit?  There must be something.

It’s particularly important for advocates to know clearly as this new Commission comes in what is it replacing and where will you now be taking particular complaints to.  So this Quality and Safeguards Commission, it’s to deal with complaints about service providers.  It doesn’t deal with complaints about the NDIA or the LACs.  Because the local area coordinators are partner agencies under the commission, sorry under the agency they’re treated as if they were the NDIA so the complaints about them have to go to the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

As I’m saying this I’m realising there is something that’s needed which is some better flowcharts about where things go.  I’ll contemplate how we do that but they will be different everywhere because the existing systems are different everywhere.

That’s not what’s happening right now.  What’s happening now is the detail of these rules, I don’t have paper copies I can give away but you’re welcome to flick through them and I’m very happy to email you any that you’re interested in.  Anybody got any questions?

QUESTION:-
I don’t want to over simplify it but if the NSW Government has as part of the bilateral agreement passed the funding across to Federal Government isn’t the simple answer that the pressure should be on the Federal Government just to at the very least top up NDAP in that state to match?  To just say nationally they should commit to having a program that takes up the state programs.  Is that over simplifying it?

MARY MALLETT:
It’s perfectly legitimate and a simple point however the Federal Government, because this is a program that’s always been jointly funded by States and Commonwealths and the Federal Minister and Department are completely aware that most of the systems that advocates support people to navigate are state based systems.  They are federally pretty aware that therefore those state governments should maintain their responsibility of funding this work.  They don’t want to let them off the hook.

I know what you mean and it will come to this point around the NSW stuff.  As soon as the Federal Government said okay we’ll top up the NSW stuff then NSW Government say oh great we’re off the hook now that’s it.  And all the other State Governments will immediately do the same thing.  They would immediately not be open to the state funded organisations coming to them.

QUESTION:-
But if the Federal Government did the funding appropriately would it matter?

MARY MALLETT:
No it wouldn’t matter and at an earlier stage it sort of was that’s kind of what I expected would happen I think, at an earlier point a couple of years ago.  What I quickly learnt was the Federal Government has no appetite at all to increase the funding for advocacy in any way.  So what they are determined is to make the State Governments – so there is both a monetary thing and a philosophical thing if you could call it that.  It’s not philosophical in Government it’s just political.  It’s just about not letting the State Governments get away with not funding something that they should fund.

It does mean though State Governments have to find new money but they find new money all the time for other things.  So it’s just a matter of where their priorities are.

QUESTION:-
But as a tactic it takes one minister in Federal Government to fix it rather than several governments fix it, might that be more effective I don’t know.

MARY MALLETT:
The Federal Government would be hard to change.

QUESTION:-
There is so many other things they’re not ashamed about they should be.

MARY MALLETT:
It’s an interesting thing because it’s not even to do with the colour of the politics.  At the moment the current State Government, six of them are labour governments.  It’s the thing that’s difficult to get your head around when you think about this politically.  Governments of the same political party can hold different views federally as they do at the state level.  I agree Geoff it does feel like there could be potentially the simple solution, to make the State Government increase the funding.  But yeah.

QUESTION:-
One of the issues is that the Commonwealth are running a business that they’ve never run before.  So many of the things that are happening now will only ever happen now.  Once we’re through them it will be a bit different but we’ve got a long way to go to get through them.  The Commonwealth public service is like Yes Minister on steroids.  It is just – it is so incomprehensible the way they work and they just don’t understand the nature of engagement particularly with people who ask them questions all the time and want the answers.

This is new for them this experience of interacting in this really face to face way it’s so new for them and we’re dealing with a department DSS who run Centrelink and they’re very busy fending off stuff.  There’s some politics that are going on, that are about the business of the bureaucracy and how it sees itself and what it sees itself responsible for.  It’s setting up this new business where there are all these questions and all this stuff.

In some ways what’s going to happen is we have to wait for things to play out in order to then insert at the right moment a piece of advocacy around things.  But they’re going to become a crop up because we all know in this room that they can’t do this business without us.  We all know that.  The problem is of course we all go home at 5 o’clock, most of us and so the people who begin to feel the effects are of course our clients, the people with disabilities.  That’s a real problem for us to navigate.

There is a couple of other things very quickly Mary, we’ve got to keep paying attention to who is not in the NDIS because it’s only 480,000 in the NDIS and all of this money went to all people with disabilities.  But what the focus is at the moment is the 480,000.  We have to keep asking those questions who else is being affected by this don’t let that slip off the agenda.

MARY MALLETT:
Thanks Patrick.  I think I’ve used up my time so any last quick questions?

QUESTION:-
Do you have any quick comment on the Productivity Commission NDIS cost report?

MARY MALLETT:
No, is the short answer because I haven’t had time to read the 372 pages or 532 or whatever it is.  I haven’t read it properly, I have only read various summaries of it.  The bit I paid most attention to of course is what they said about advocacy.  They also said that advocacy funding should continue, all the State Governments should continue funding it.  It’s another place where they’ve also still tried to keep putting the pressure on.

The Productivity Commission report is a good example of something that took  – they worked on that for I don’t know a year or more.  Lots of people put submissions in, they came and talked to us about advocacy and they did indeed change what they were writing about because of that.  The problem is it’s a bit like all the Senate enquiries and all the other things.  There is the NDIS Joint Standing Committee has at any one time three or four enquiries running about the NDIS.  I went to talk to them about advocacy relatively recently a few weeks ago.  The problem is there’s this gap in between the time any of those reports come out and the Government can choose when it responds to them.  So just because the Productivity Commission put something out it doesn’t actually mean the Government has to immediately say yes we better do that.

The Senate enquiry into violence abuse and neglect against people with disabilities is a perfect example.  The Government took 15 months to respond to that and most of the recommendations they just said noted.  Not we will do anything but oh yes, you’ve got a point.

This is the difficulty with systemic advocacy.  It’s the people in this room writing submissions going to hearings, putting forward your collected stories and views about things and then they land into a report and then you wait.  You can’t know if the Government will ever respond and do anything about it.  You can use the evidence and the pieces out of those reports, you can quote them at people but none of that actually replaces the advocacy that the people in this room can do.  None of it.

Anyway you would despair if you thought too deeply about it.  You just have to kind of keep your head up and keep going and keep chipping away at things, which is why actually the stuff you were talking about earlier about DARUs priorities for next year and the stuff it’s just – you can’t, what you can’t do is you can’t think just because the Productivity Commission looked at something we can let go of it now because they did it and that’s okay.  You can’t afford to.  You have to keep thinking whatever bit I can do in my patch I have to keep doing it as hard as I can because none of that – these big reports still just sit on peoples desk.  It’s still the people in the room who have to use – take quotes out of it.

Unfortunately to properly answer your question Mark, what I literally haven’t had time to do is to read through that properly.  This is exactly what DANA should do, read through that properly and pick out all the bits that would be useful for advocates to use in their practice, in their way of quoting back at people in what they can do in their state and I just haven’t had time to do it.

The Australian National Audit Office bought out another report literally the day after the Productivity Commission one.  That’s a detailed report that’s actually, if any of you can hunt it out, it’s on the ANAO website, and they looked at the – what they do is they look at the administrative processes of the NDIA.  They’ve just opened another one actually looking at fraud within the NDIA.  That’s the new one they’ve just opened this week I think.

But that last one they looked at administrative processes and there were some interesting things and I have fed them back to the NDIA and I have asked the NDIA for responses and I mentioned them at the joint standing committee.  One of the examples was they looked at – it was kind of like they do an audit of the NDIA.  They looked at 150 decisions and of those 150 access decisions I think 47 of them were whatever the term is, access denied or access not approved.  People were found not eligible for access.

Of the majority of those maybe of the ones where access was denied they had no paperwork.  They had nothing on record, no reasons, nothing.  No paperwork no nothing at all for about a quarter of those.

Of the rest of them so that was maybe 37 of them, they had on file in theory what they had on file was what they had sent to the person.  Not one of them had they sent a piece of information about their right of review.  So that’s why this – trying to keep on top of what that agency is doing is incredibly important because just because they’re meant to send out something that tells people – so some of the organisations have funding for NDIS appeals but if the NDIA is not telling people that they have a right to reviews and appeals well it may be they might not be approaching organisations to look for the assistance.

That’s just one little glimpse into how – all of the stuff that we have to try and keep on top of to make sure because nobody else, there is nobody else other than advocates that try and keep systems accountable.  You’d imagine presumably inside the NDIA somebody, somebody is responsible for making people do their job properly.  But I feel like they’re so busy with all their implementation stuff they don’t have time to look backwards did we do that right, can we do it better.  I think they’re just trying to reach their targets.  We need more conversations to talk about some of these things in-depth.

MELISSA HALE:
I’ve always said one hour with Mary Mallett I’ve learnt more than I have in a whole year.  Thank you very much Mary, really appreciate it.

[applause]