‘Some welcome initiatives but absence of provision for people with disabilities in key areas’

People With Disabilities (PWD) ACT is a disabled peoples organisation run by people with disabilities for people with disabilities. PWD ACT advocates for the removal of barriers to our participation and inclusion in the community. We work to inform the discussion of issues affecting people with disabilities and to promote access especially in the areas of housing, transport, employment and the environment.

PWD ACT welcomes the ACT Government’s implementation of its 2016 Election commitments to people with disabilities. However, we note with disappointment that specific reference and commitments to people with disabilities is absent from the key areas of the Budget, especially housing, urban renewal and transport. It is particularly concerned at the ACT Government’s failure to fund matters specifically mentioned in the Parliamentary Agreement. These include:

  1. Implementing action on Universal Housing Design; and
  2. Resourcing and properly situating the Access Reference Group; This Access Reference Group is to co-ordinate Government action to promote an accessible environment for people with disabilities.PWD ACT Executive Officer Robert Altamore said:

    ‘In 2016 and early 2017, the ACT Government had strong engagement with the disability community on these issues and disabled people hoped that it shared their vision for Canberra to be an access city of the future. It is disappointing that the ACT Government seems to be stepping away from this vision.’

    Mr Altamore also said that:

    ‘The absence of specific disability provision in the key areas of transport, housing and urban renewal in this budget puts at risk provisions for people with disabilities in these critical areas of daily life and in areas that are crucial to the effective implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). NDIS supports can help disabled people participate in public life, but you cannot participate in employment, education or recreation without accessible accommodation or if the transport system is inaccessible. It will mean that organisations like PWD ACT will have to work even harder with the Office of Disability and sympathetic community organisations to ensure adequate provisions for people with disabilities in housing, transport and environmental access.’

    We note the commitment of $350,000 in 2017-18 for planning for social housing but this appears to be more about people with complex needs who are at risk of homelessness which is an area of need we acknowledge. But it does not appear to be about the broader accessibility of the broader social housing stock.

    Notwithstanding these criticisms, PWD ACT welcomes the following initiatives:

    • $2.2 million over four years to strengthen the Office for Disability, which will have ongoing policy and oversight responsibilities in the ACT under the National Disability Insurance Scheme;

    • $1.8 million over four years to establish the Office of the Senior Practitioner to regulate the use of restrictive practices against vulnerable people;

    • $302,000 to develop a Disability Justice Strategy to ensure that people with disability are treated equally before the law;

    • $200,000 over four years to support greater social inclusion of people with a disability by funding training, awarenessand infrastructure upgrades for community organisations;

    $3 million in 2017-18 to support students with disability in schools and a substantial commitment to transport for school students;

    Specific initiatives for mental health but note that many of these are only funded for one year; and

    • $70,000 to support Self Help Organisations United Together (SHOUT) to establish a sustainable service delivery model, allowing it to continue supporting its member organisations (PWD ACT is a member of SHOUT).

    In the context of the Budget and Government provision for people experiencing social and economic disadvantage, many of whom are people with disabilities, PWD ACT draws attention to the substantial adverse effects on many of the people we represent which will result from the 17% to 19% rises in gas and electricity prices announced on Thursday 8 June.