Newcastle rally against NSW government's planned disability advocacy service funding cut

Speaking up: About 60 people rallied in Newcastle on Friday to call for the NSW government to overturn plans to cut funding to disability advocacy services.
Speaking up: About 60 people rallied in Newcastle on Friday to call for the NSW government to overturn plans to cut funding to disability advocacy services.

The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme means advocacy is needed more than ever, a frontline worker who lives with a disability says.

About 60 people – those with disabilities, supporters, service providers and union representatives and Labor MPs – held a rally in Newcastle on Friday to urge the NSW government to stop funding cuts for advocacy services, which are expected to take place in July as part of the transition to the NDIS.

The $13 million cut means about 50 disability advocacy services will lose state government funding.

Cath Mahony is a peer worker at Community Disability Alliance Hunter – an organisation that supports people with disabilities and their families. Ms Mahony, who lives with a vision impairment, said the issue of disability advocacy funding was particularly important for rural and regional areas.

“We have lots of phone calls at CDAH from people needing support, needing to get advocacy in all areas of their life,” she said.

“There’s a systemic advocacy around housing, education, health and Centrelink and of course the NDIS.

“[The NDIS] is not the silver bullet and it’s, in fact, a new area in this country in which people with disabilities and their families are needing more advocacy than ever before.

“At CDAH, we often take phone calls from my peers, as a person with a disability. I hear the struggles and the desperation of my brothers and sisters with a disability and I don’t want to be the person on the other end of the phone that says: ‘I’m really sorry, there’s nowhere I can send you, I’m really sorry there’s no-one who will stand by you’.”

NSW acting opposition spokesperson for disability services Kate Washington said Labor would fund advocacy services if elected in 2019.

“We understand how critical advocacy services are in this sector,” she said.

When approached on Friday, disability services minister Ray Williams repeated his comments from earlier this week, saying the government recognised the transition to the NDIS was “a period of change for people with a disability and disability service providers”.

“The NSW government has provided funding of $10.6 million for advocacy and information services each year during the transition to the full scheme,” he said.

Labor Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said the cuts showed that the state government had no heart or head. Federal Labor’s Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon said the NDIS was never intended to take over advocacy funding.

“It is inexcusable that the state Liberal government is now cynically using the NDIS as an excuse to dump vital support for people with a disability,” she said.

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