Budget Assistance for Disabled

Hundreds of Victorians with a disability will get access to tailored support in the May state budget, as the Napthine government moves to tackle the growing backlog of people waiting for assistance.

About $190 million will be spent over the next four years in a bid to improve services and reduce the disability waiting list, which currently has more than 4200 people waiting for help – about 500 more than the year before.

Most of that money – $120 million – will be used to fund 658 ”individual support packages” for people with disabilities to pay for supported accommodation, respite or a range of other chosen resources.

A further $25 million will help establish Geelong as the headquarters for the National Disability Insurance Agency, attracting 300 new jobs to the area, and the remaining $44.4 million will go towards Fair Work Australia’s pay rise for community sector workers.

Disability Services Minister Mary Wooldridge said individual support packages provide flexible funding that ”empowers people with a disability, allowing them to make choices about how they spend their time and money, and enabling access to a range of tailored, essential resources”.

But some say that while new money is welcome, it would take a lot more to reduce the waiting list, particularly for adults with disabilities, as much of the funding is targeted towards young people leaving school.

”What we’re dealing with at the moment is unprecedented levels of crisis,” said Kevin Stone, chief executive of the Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability.

National Disability Services state manager James O’Brien said up to 900,000 Victorians would not be able to qualify for the National Disability Insurance Scheme once it is fully operational, but would still require mainstream support. ”Therefore, there would need to be a pretty strong and sustained investment in disability services in Victoria,” he said.

On Saturday, the Coalition also announced the May 6 budget would:

  • Include $550 million for a new fleet of Ambulance Victoria helicopters that could travel longer distances without refuelling and accommodate two stretchers.
  • Provide an extra $130 million over four years for road maintenance and restoration works.
  • Ms Wooldridge’s budget announcement comes as Prime Minister Tony Abbott is expected to travel to Geelong on Wednesday to help launch the new office for the National Disability Insurance Agency, which runs the scheme.

But while 658 new individual support packages will be provided – adding to the 14,500 Victorians who currently receive one – the government admits it has not yet rolled out all of the 720 packages promised in last year’s budget. Those packages were meant to be funded by a controversial rental rise for disabled people living in state-run homes, but the rental increase was thwarted after a legal challenge.

”How can anyone trust Mary Wooldridge when last year she promised extra support packages but couldn’t deliver them as they relied on massive rent hikes on people with disabilities?” said Labor spokeswoman Jenny Mikakos.

Ms Wooldridge’s office said about 500 of the 720 individual support packages from last year’s budget have been provided so far.

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Government, Policy, Legislation

Farrah Tomazin

The Age

Date published:
Sun 27th Apr, 2014