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Media Release – 2023 must be the year of delivery for disability  

Published on February 17, 2023

17 February 2022 

As 2023 moves into high gear, people with disabilities are calling for this to be the year of decision and delivery for investment in an ACT Disability Strategy and ACT Disability Health Strategy and critical needs identified by the community for NDIS reform and in the Disability Royal Commission. 

According to AFI Head of Policy Craig Wallace: “as we enter 2023 new figures from the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (RoGS) are pointing to the need for urgent action and attention to health services, access and inclusion, and service quality for people with disability.  

“In the ACT, out-of-pocket costs for health services remain well above the national average. Rising costs coupled with the lowest rates of bulk-billing services in the country are resulting in Canberrans delaying seeing a GP, mental health professional, or even filling a script. Waiting times for necessary care are also mounting, with more than 50 per cent of people in need of an urgent appointment having to wait more than 24 hours.  

“The jobs outlook for people with disability remains woeful with no significant change in the proportion of people with disability participating in the labour force since 2009.  

“There is also a long way to go when it comes to ensuring the quality and adequacy of service provision. Across Australia, only half of all NDIS participants aged 15+ years affirm that they get to choose who supports them.  

“Social participation outcomes have also worsened as fewer people with disability report face-to-face contact with family or friends. Issues and outcomes surrounding access and inclusion have also been exacerbated by the persistent COVID-19 pandemic. We are a long way from knowing what the true impact of the pandemic will be for people with disability and we will continue to speak out and urge adoption of the sensible and comprehensive measures sought in our White Paper on COVID and our submission to the Federal inquiry on Long COVID which has begun holding hearings today.   

“This data reinforces the need for early concrete actions and targeted investments signalling substantial whole of government commitments to the priorities highlighted in both the Federal and State and/or Territory disability strategies. In the ACT, these include a funded Disability Health Strategy, a funded Disability Strategy, action to deliver affordable and accessible housing, social planning commitments to accessible, spaces, places, transport, and community infrastructure, as well as a disability diversionary pathway for law enforcement” Mr Wallace concluded.   

AFI CEO Nick Lawler also noted that expectations were high for improvements to the NDIS as the Federal review of the Scheme continues: “While AFI recognise areas of best practice and signs of improvement surrounding the administration of the NDIS, our submission to the Inquiry into the Capability and Culture of the NDIA highlights scope for improvement in communication, flexibility, and responsiveness.  

“On average, people with disability are waiting just under 50 days for the approval of their first plan. This process can be further delayed by administrative burdens holding up the approval process. Our individual advocates are hearing from many people needing more support applying for the NDIS.   

“Over the past year, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission received almost 1.5 million notifications about the use of unauthorised restrictive practices, including environmental and chemical restraints. Thousands more notifications relating to other serious incidents including abuse and neglect, and allegations of unlawful physical and sexual contact were made.  

“Progress on these priorities can only be reached through clear visions and strategies, the provision of adequate resourcing, both inside and outside government, adequate oversight and owners to drive accountability, and meaningful community partnerships. For that reason we will be making a comprehensive submission to this years ACT Budget consultation and looking to the Budget to put words into action through a funded ACT Disability Strategy and ACT Disability Health Strategy.   

“AFI is acutely aware of the historic opportunity afforded to Australia as the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability moves towards its report in September. We anticipate breakthrough recommendations for legislative change, safety net improvements, structural investments and system-wide upheavals in policy and practice that result in direct, lifelong improvements to the straightened lives of too many people with disability.   We have laid these out in a comprehensive submission released yesterday and will be pushing for Governments to commit to early response and implementation of key recommendations.   

“Today AFI has also released our first Policy Impact Report  It shows AFI made almost 20 significant submissions across 2022 with more than 100 recommendations along with a range of policy representations.  Our work was impactful in Assembly reports, public hearings, collaborative submissions and shaped responses from Governments in ACT and some national forums to issues impacting on people with disability living in the ACT.  A highlight was additional joint submissions and collaborative submissions and open forums including on COVID, housing and income support and education as well as purposeful engagements on planning issues.    

“We will fight to retain a strong independent voice in the ACT which speaks out on issues like the continuing challenges to people with disability in the pandemic, justice, accessible housing and poverty, accessible planning and infrastructure, access to healthcare and inclusive education.   

“We look forward to helping realise the ambitious, far-reaching, and transformative potential afforded this new year. The clock starts now”, Mr Lawler concluded.   

Media contacts: Craig Wallace, Head of Policy on 0477 200 755 or Nicolas Lawler, Chief Executive Officer on 0439 431 814