Page 3169 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 18 October 2022

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Debate resumed from 13 October 2022.

Community Services Directorate—Part 1.8

MADAM SPEAKER: I remind members that in debating order of the day No 1, executive business, they may also address their remarks to executive business order of the day No 2, and Assembly business order of the day No 1.

MR MILLIGAN (Yerrabi) (10.31): I rise today to speak about disability and the overall lack of additional provisions within the budget for those who do not qualify for the NDIS, those who need it most and need the support provided by the ACT government. I note there has been a further increase in funding for the ACT’s commitment to the NDIS, yet I was perplexed to see that the overall budget for disability had in fact decreased in this year’s budget.

In a response to a question on notice about this matter, I was told it was due to reprofiling of funding and the existing provisions of monies from the 2021-22 budget; yet we have more people who need support who do not qualify for the NDIS. So I am left wondering why, when the needs are greater and more urgent, there was an overall reduction in funding for disability services. If in previous years it was possible to budget for this amount, then surely it should be possible not to reduce funding but to keep it at least at the same levels and increase services.

A recent survey for the ACT showed that as many as 26 per cent of people with disabilities living in households are in the lowest two income quartiles, often living in households with less than $50,000 a year before tax, needing extra government support. This budget does not meet their needs.

I think ACTCOSS summarised it well, describing this budget as “treading water.” Perhaps the most significant forward-looking gaps were around the ACT’s disability strategy and disability health strategy. The budget fails to signal any forward looking initiatives for the community. When questioned about this, the government’s response was that it was being offset with the health funding envelope with future funding to be decided. This is a disappointing response. The scoping study was completed last year, and it might have been expected that a more indicative and specific funding arrangement could have been put in place, but in this budget and in the forward estimates is a signal to the community of this government’s commitment to this and other strategies. Currently there are over 10,000 people who have self-identified as living with a disability in the ACT, though we know that number could potentially be higher.

Finally, I was surprised by the lack of funding in this year’s budget for the various charities and organisations that have in the past relied on government funding. Missing from the budget for this year were advocacy agencies such as ACT Disability Aged and Carer Advocacy Services and Advocacy for Inclusion. The forward estimates funding for Roundabout Canberra, who deliver a tremendous service to Canberrans in need, has also disappeared, it seems. I questioned the government on the lack of visibility of the promised money, to be assured that the grant money would be paid as promised, though not listed in the budget. I was glad to get that response

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