Disability advocates were never going to walk away quietly from some of the community’s most vulnerable

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THE NSW Government decision to fund about 50 disability advocacy services for the next two years, announced on Friday as funding for those groups was about to end, is to be welcomed.
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Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s $26 million for the sector is not only necessary, as the National Disability Insurance Scheme beds down across the country, but is a significant acknowledgment of what the government already knew –that people with disabilities are some of the most vulnerable in the community.

How vulnerable was made very clear during a Senate inquiry in 2015 which heard shocking evidence of abuse, violence and neglect of people with disabilities in institutional and care settings. The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse also heard some of its most harrowing evidence during public hearings into sexual abuse of children with disabilities in institutional settings.

The Senate inquiry was so concerned that it recommended a royal commission was needed, a recommendation not supported by the Federal Government.

The inquiry’s final report also came out strongly on the “vital role that formal and informal advocacy plays in addressing violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability”, with a specific recommendation that “states and territories not reduce advocacy funding with the rollout of the NDIS”.

Which is exactly what the NSW Government did, and immediately paid the political price.

It is hard not to describethe government’s decision to resume advocacy funding for two years, after months of digging in and refusing to respond to reasoned and reasonable arguments from the sector, as a backflip or backdown, to add to a growinglist of government backflips of late.

That’s what happens when governments make initial decisions with little or no consultation with those affected, or somehow comes to view an issue from an inappropriate angle –in this case as an offloading of state responsibilities because of the national scheme.

It’s what happens when governments losesight of the fact that despite the prevailing mantra – that we are all now customers or clients in the “market” forgovernment services –its decisions can have extraordinary impacts on people’s lives. And as we’ve seen on this issue, people will fight back.

Issue: 38,768.

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