The 2018-19 Victorian Budget provides some welcome measures for people with disability, including increased funding for disability advocacy, which is particularly important as we transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
It also provides more support for people with disability in the justice system, through the expansion of communication support when giving evidence, and several services through the Office of the Public Advocate. There is also welcome funding for various accessibility measures, including public transport upgrades and 11 additional Changing Places sites.
The budget does not prioritise investment for older people and carers. Funding required for whole-of-government strategies to meet their needs is a missed opportunity.
While there is a positive expansion of a current trial of an integrated response to elder abuse, there is no increased funding for already stretched legal services to support people experiencing elder abuse. These services are under growing demand.
There is also no specific discussion of, or investment in, a Victorian strategy for carers, which will be important in driving action to meet their unique needs and support their economic and social participation.
As Victoria has almost 800,000 carers and a rapidly ageing population, investment in these areas is vital for the future so people can live good lives. We hope to see more on these areas in the lead-up to the state election in November.
- Funding for work under the State Disability Plan
Absolutely Everyone: State disability plan 2017-2020 outlines the Victorian Government’s priorities and strategies for increasing opportunities and inclusion for people with disability. The Budget provides funding to continue work under the plan, including the expansion of disability advocacy services to reach 2,000 clients per year, up from 1,700. It also includes funding for an additional 11 Changing Places sites, improved beach access at Carrum Beach, and a feasibility study to make the city of Geelong more accessible. Work will also be done to increase the employment of people with disability in the public sector.
Cost: $3.8m in 2018-19 ($9.2m/3 years)
- Improving public transport accessibility
Trams, trains and buses in Victoria remain inaccessible to many people with disability, in both metropolitan and country areas. The Budget includes funding to continue accessibility upgrades of public transport infrastructure, including Watergardens and Essendon train stations, and significant upgrades to South Yarra station.
Cost: $12.5m in 2018-19 ($28.4/3 years)
- Responding to elder abuse
Elder abuse is a poorly recognised form of family violence, influenced by society’s attitudes towards older people and their marginalisation in the community. Through the Budget, a current trial of an integrated model of care in response to elder abuse will be expanded to five locations across Victoria. Workforce training and community awareness-raising events will also be undertaken.
Cost: $2.2m in 2018-19 ($6m/4 years)
- Expansion of the Office of the Public Advocate’s services
The Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) provides guardianship, advocacy and other services for Victorians with disability. Through the Budget, OPA will expand its Independent Third Persons program, which supports people with disability in police interviews, and its provision of guardianship services in response to orders made by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Cost: $2.3m in 2018-19 ($5.1m/2 years)
- Continued support for NDIS transition
It is estimated that 105,000 Victorians will be participating in the NDIS by July next year. The Budget provides funding for continued work to support people with disability, their families, and service providers in transitioning to the NDIS. This will include continuing the DHHS intensive support team’s work to help individuals with complex needs access the NDIS.
Cost: $1.8m in 2018-19 ($4.5m/2 years)
- Extension of support for people with disability when giving evidence
The Department of Justice and Regulation is trialling a program that provides communication support to people with cognitive impairment who are victims or witnesses in certain crimes, when they provide evidence to police and courts. The Budget includes additional funding to extend this scheme over the next two years.
Cost: $300,000 in 2018-19 ($2.5m/2 years)
Future policy directions
- Implement a state-wide whole-of-government carer strategy
Unpaid carers provide essential support to others, including those with disability and mental illness. Work is being done on a state-wide strategy for carers, but there is no allocated funding for this in the Budget. A funded, whole-of-government strategy would help to address the unique and specific needs of people in care relationships, assist carers to navigate complex service systems and help overcome barriers to social and economic participation.
- Help older Victorians lead dignified lives
The Budget missed an opportunity to deliver a comprehensive strategy to help older Victorians lead dignified lives. While the expansion of the integrated models trial response to elder abuse is welcome, there is no additional funding for critical legal services to support older people experiencing abuse, which are under increasing demand, and we still don’t have an overarching strategy that brings together different portfolios to meet the needs of older Victorians.
- Match the Commonwealth’s funding for disability advocacy
The additional funding announced for disability advocacy services is very welcome, as the target number of clients had previously remained unchanged for many years, despite population growth. However, the advocacy sector is facing significantly higher demand with the introduction of the NDIS and other changes to disability services, and more funding is still required to meet the needs of the more than one million Victorians with disability. The Productivity Commission recommended matching the Commonwealth’s level of per capita funding, which would take Victoria’s funding up to $5.1 million per year.