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Federal Budget – Welcome news on NDIS, but poverty still bites

A peak body for Canberrans with disabilities said tonight’s Federal Budget delivered welcome signs of NDIS continuity and money to fix the scheme but missed the opportunity to address cost of living issues for people with disability especially on the Disability Support Pension (DSP).


Advocacy for Inclusion A/g Chief Executive Officer Craig Wallace said: “We welcome undertakings to maintain a demand driven National Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and better operational funding plus investment to improve quality and safeguards. However Government is underinvesting in capacity building work for people with disability to engage with the scheme and to address NDIS market issues which hamper sustainability and consumer choice and control.


“We welcomed a small but significant package of COVID protection measures including income replacement for Disability Support Workers.


“There are very modest increases in income support payments including Jobseeker, Parenting Payment and Rent Assistance while Younger Disability Support Pensioners will also a receive a small increase but these are far from the levels needed to address adequacy.


“We’re disappointed for Canberrans on DSP who do not receive assistance despite being squeezed hard by cost-of-living pressures and the additional cost of disability. We continue to call for a modest Disability and Illness supplement of $50 a week and reform of pension access arrangements so people get support in crisis.


“Our White Paper on Income Support included a model Budget which shows that people with disability face a shortfall of around $824 per fortnight on conservative estimates after paying for the bare necessities of private rental housing, groceries, on demand transport, utilities and other expenses with little left over for emergencies.


“We welcomed energy bill relief although we are still working through the detail of how assistance is accessed and we also welcomed funding to reduce the co-payment for medicines under Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).


“We cautiously welcome initiatives to transition the supported employment sector out of underpayment conditions and for skills and apprenticeships among people with disability. We note initiatives to move young people out of residential aged care but more detail is needed on how funding will lead to outcomes. “We were disappointed not to see more dedicated investment for accessible housing and also violence prevention initiatives recommended by organisations in the sector responding to issues identified by the Disability Royal Commission.


“A summary of Budget highlights is at Attachment A and we will be continuing to analyse the Budgets impact on people with disability over coming days. We also look forward to the ACT Budget delivering necessary investments in areas like housing, health, education and mainstream supports to support its ACT Disability Strategy.”



Attachment A

What’s in the Federal Budget for people with disabilities?

Budget at a glance

Governments stated focus:

  1. providing responsible and targeted cost-of-living relief

  2. strengthening Medicare

  3. broadening opportunities in our society and around the country

  4. investing in a stronger and more secure economy

  5. managing the budget responsibly.

Headline measures:

  • 5.5 million households and one million small businesses will be eligible for up to $500 in electricity bill relief (access to this needs clarification).

  • Single parents of young children will gain, with the cut-off age for benefits to rise from 8 to 14.

  • Aged care workers will get a 15 per cent pay rise

  • Medical prescription changes will save Australians up to $180 a year

  • Cost-of-Living Package: Modest increase to JobSeeker, assistance to renters

NDIS

  • Budget papers and Treasurers speech include a commitment that “NDIS will remain demand driven” and “is here to stay”

  • $720 million over four years to overhaul the NDIA

  • $142 million for quality and safeguards

Income support

  • The Budget includes a very modest lift in the base rate of working age and student payments by $40 per fortnight. This is much less than the level needed to achieve adequacy and does not include the Disability Support Pension. This increase applies to the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment (Partnered), Austudy, ABSTUDY, Disability Support Pension (Youth), and Special Benefit. It will commence on 20 September 2023. There is a higher increase for people over 65’s

  • Concession card holders including people on payments are eligible for energy bill relief of up to $500

COVID

  • The Government will provide additional funding over 5 years from 2022–23 to expand the COVID-19 vaccine strategy and provide Australians with COVID-19 treatments. Funding includes: funding for vaccines, access to PCR tests maintaining access to Medicare rebates for telehealth appointments for patients with COVID-19, regardless of whether they have an existing clinical relationship with a general practitioner, and subsidise consultations for vulnerable people with suspected COVID-19 to obtain a referral for a PCR test

  • We welcome $14.1m for Covid leave grant for disability support workers who don’t have leave entitlements (effectively a Jobkeeper continuity for disability sector)

  • Two COVID antivirals, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir (Paxlovid) to be listed on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

Housing

  • There is a welcome increase in Rent Assistance and money for build to rent schemes but little new money directly targeted at accessible and affordable housing

Employment and Education

  • $17.7 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $4.7 million per year ongoing) in additional funding for the Higher Education Disability Support Program to enable providers to better support students with disability to access and succeed in higher education, including by helping to purchase equipment and modify teaching materials and delivery methods

  • The Government will provide $57.0 million package over 4 years from 2023–24 to support the ‘evolution’ of the supported employment sector including a structural adjustment fund, a targeted disability employment advocacy service and information program for supported employees, a suite of measures to help services transition, money to extend the Job Access Complaints Resolution and Referral Service and the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline and funding for consultations towards a Disability Employment Centre of Excellence.

Young people in nursing homes

  • There is a modest package of initiatives to further reduce the number of people under the age of 65 living in residential aged care (we are keen for further details on how funding is deployed)

What’s missing or incomplete

  • Recommended levels of increase to income support payments – this modest increase will still leave payments below the level needed to ensure adequacy

  • Dedicated work to grow accessible housing

  • Increases to the Disability Support Pension (apart from the Youth Pension)

  • Investments in violence prevention work despite strong representations from the sector

  • Investments in non government capacity building for people with disability engaging with NDIS

  • Investments in tier 2 disability supports

  • Dedicated Australian Disability Strategy investments

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