PWD ACT puts forward four priority areas for the 2017-18 Budget which respond to the needs of people with disability; the implementation of commitments made during the election campaign within the parliamentary agreement and underpinning resourcing needed to sustain systemic disability advocacy in the ACT and enable us to be a productive representative voice and partner to government.

Provide a proper focal point for Government policy

  1. Provide proper funding for peak systemic advocacy by Disabled Peoples Organisations
  2. Implement action on Universal Housing Design mentioned in the Parliamentary Agreement
  3. Resource and properly situate the Access Reference Group mentioned in the Parliamentary Agreement. Please note that the material in support of Priority 2 is to be treated as confidential and is provided separately.

 Priority 1

Provide a proper focal point for ongoing Government Disability Policy


In our election platform we asked for Government to maintain an engine for disability policy coordination within either the Community Services Directorate or the Chief Minister’s Directorate; build a focus on whole of government coordination and policy making in the disability policy area, especially in areas such as transport and employment; and consider a range of mechanisms to embed this focus including disability impact statements in Cabinet submissions and including performance benchmarks in key areas, such as the employment of ACT public servants with a disability, in agreements with Directorate Chief Executives.

The Parliamentary Agreement provides that Labor and the Greens will create a new policy unit to monitor and support the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, oversee grants to improve the ability of people with disabilities to participate in mainstream community groups, better support parents of children with disabilities; and a resourced Disability Reference Group to include people with disabilities and to address access issues for transport and new developments.

Labor has also made a welcome commitment and announcement of a Minister for Disability.

Why this is important

Disability policy was managed by Disability ACT within the Community Services Directorate and has recently transitioned to CPG. While the NDIS means that responsibility for specialist disability services is moving to the Commonwealth Government and the NDIA over time people with disabilities interact with a vast array of services provided by the ACT Government including health, education, justice, transport and urban services.

The NDIS will not fix everything. Thee ACT needs a dedicated and systemic push to improve transport, housing, education, employment, infrastructure and allied health so that people have a welcoming community which complements the hoped for improvements in specialist service provision under the NDIS.

There are gaps emerging in specialist services provision due to the inadequacy of the ILC commissioning process, issues with the implementation of the NDIS and the ongoing needs of people over 65 and people who do not have an NDIS plan.

What needs to happen

The ACT needs a policy unit that is a credible voice within Government and can respond to the current reform challenges facing us.

The new Office for Disability must be separate and prioritise disability as a discrete issue given the scale, size and number of reforms underway.

The Office for Disability should be adequately resourced, specifically:

It should maintain a capacity to fund some key gaps in service provision and program responses emerging for over 65’s and people and organisations lost in the transition to NDIS.

    • We specifically urge continued funding for TADACT, 1RPH, SHOUT and a disability peak voice. These are underpinning services and activities that enable people to get peer support and bespoke services that are not able to draw income purely from an individualised funding framework or are not appropriate within NDIS.
  • It should maintain a capacity to manage some complex and multifaceted case coordination challenges that will continue due to emergent gaps in the NDIS.
  • It should have a line of sight across the ACT Government to ensure the development of solid whole of Government initiatives for the National Disability Strategy
  • It should provide the secretariat for a Senior Inter-Directorate Committee to leverage change across the whole ACT Government
  • It should have the capacity to drive key investments to realise the scope and ambition of involve Canberra.
  • Initiatives like the ACT Inclusion Awards are valued in the disability sector and should continue.

The new Office for Disability must employ people with a disability. The community would not accept an Office For Women that had no women on staff or an office of LGBTI that did not contain members of these constituencies.

Given the historic barriers and access issues that people with disability have encountered within the ACT Public Service we would support identified positions to ensure that the Office for Disability is representative of the community it serves.

Advisory structures that are fit for purpose

Advisory structures need to be fit for purpose and should not be set impossible tasks outside their scope and capacity. For this reason, PWD ACT sees some significant risks in having one advisory body responsible for the NDIS, the NDS as well as the task of ensuring our infrastructure meets the needs of people with disability and ageing Canberrans.

The ACT Government needs a focal point for disability policy, primarily to The Office for Disability and more technical advice on access issues, primarily to Transport and City Services. These are skills held by different people and the levers for change are in different directorates.

There should be a reference group which provides broad oversight and direction to the National Disability Strategy and to Involve Canberra and also supports the new Office for Disability to gain strategic advice.

The Access Reference Group or subgroup that addresses access issues for transport and new developments needs to be in a Directorate with a line of site to transport and development issues. It needs to include consumers, access consultants, architects, planners and designers. It might also provide advice and support on the Universal Housing Design initiatives.

The Grants

PWD ACT welcomes grants to support third sector organisations improve access and inclusion of volunteers. PWD ACT can advise how these might be best targeted to support full inclusion. These grants must not be unconditional or provide an expectation that community organisations will only meet their legal and human rights obligations to people with disability when funded to do so. They should be linked to organisations undertaking disability awareness training from Disabled Peoples Organisations and developing Disability Action Plans. They should incentivise ongoing efforts by these organisations.

Priority 2

Provide proper funding for peak systemic advocacy by Disabled Peoples Organisations

This priority is addressed in a separate confidential document.

Priority 3

Implement action on Universal Housing Design mentioned in the Parliamentary Agreement


In its election platform PWD ACT asked for mandated housing to the Liveable Housing Design Guidelines, work to invest in and incentivise non government investors to fund accessible housing construction with a focus on private rental, support for the inclusion of accessible and adaptable housing standards within the Building Code of Australia at the National Level through COAG mechanisms; work to address rental discrimination against people with disability by community education and promotion with private real estate agents and industry through investment in initiatives like InvolveCBR – the ACT’s commitment to the National Disability Strategy (NDS); and work to prioritise the rollout of accessible and visitable housing within all new public and social housing developments.

In the Parliamentary agreement the Government has committed to encourage Universal Housing initiatives by: holding a roundtable to develop incentives that will encourage construction of new homes and apartments that meet the Liveable Housing Design Silver and Gold Levels; developing training programs for architects and builders; showcasing Universal Housing in demonstration housing projects; and playing an active role at COAG to push for genuine progress on the 2010 COAG agreement (in the National Disability Strategy), for new housing to meet Universal Design Standards.

Why this is important

There is a shortage of accessible housing for people with disabilities in the open market and in private rental despite the ACT being a trial site for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

There is a double disadvantage – a lack of affordable housing and a lack of built form.

People with disability are more likely to be on low and casualised incomes or on income support and we know from the Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot that there are only a handful of private rentals in Canberra which can be afforded by someone on the Disability Support Pension.

There is a lack of accessible housing in the ACT which means people have fewer housing choices. An undersupply of visitable housing can also leave people isolated – visiting friends or neighbours can be a challenge.

The overheated Saturday rental auction market means its difficult for people with disability to compete, negotiate and identify access modifications.

There will always be a need in the foreseeable future for dedicated public and social housing supply solutions for people with a disability.

The Productivity Commission’s annual Report on Government Services (ROGS) has shown there were 2,320 Canberrans on the waiting list for public housing in 2015. This is up on the previous year and 700 higher than in 2011. At the same time, the total number of public housing dwellings is falling, from more than 11,000 in 2011 to 10,800 last year.

The ROGS Report also found that people with “special needs” have very few housing options beyond public housing and community housing – there is significant housing market failure for these residents in Canberra People with disability around Australia report widespread rental discrimination.

There is a lack of good work on this, however all the research we have indicates that the housing careers of people with a disability are flatter and more restricted than those of the population overall.

The response to the housing crisis for people with disabilities is often framed in terms of quick fix housing “models” which support relatively few people to gain independent housing in the community. They create perverse outcomes by moving people into segregated settings away from natural supports, advocacy and inclusion in the community.

The ACT does not have a history of large institutions but we have had a succession of negative outcomes within large group homes. Failings in these “models” were highlighted by the Gallop Report in 2003. They continue to be highlighted

Sadly, the ACT Government has begun supporting some housing which is inconsistent with our promise as a human rights jurisdiction – especially Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability – namely: models which require people to live in a particular living arrangement in order to receive disability supports.

What needs to happen?

We welcome the suite of commitments in the Parliamentary Agreement and agree that they represent a good start and a welcome response to the issues raised by the ACT Disability community.

The Governments work on Universal Design must be linked to the Affordable Housing Strategy being designed by the ACT Government.

In addition to these commitments we believe that the Government should prohibit further funding which is directed at maintaining or developing institutional living arrangements for people with disability; and initiate a program of action to devolve people with disability from institutions, centre based respite and large group homes in the ACT

 Priority 4

Resource and properly situate the Access Reference Group mentioned in the Parliamentary Agreement


In our election platform we asked for a dedicated Access Taskforce – a key coordination point for the planning of disability access in Canberra that was situated within Transport and City Services. It would bring together consumers, planners, architects and policymakers to improve access in older areas and ensure that new development was up to scratch. It would develop a Universal Design charter; identify duplication of effort in work to improve access; provide community education approaches; advise on new market developments and disruption; identify priority areas and blackspots; and identify opportunities to market Canberra as an accessible region.

In the Parliamentary Agreement the Government has agreed to establish a resourced Disability Reference Group to include people with disabilities and to address access issues for transport and new developments.

Why this is important

Good planning for access also supports sustainable spending and helps to manage a fragile revenue base for the Territory. Canberra is heading for an increase in the ageing population and it is more cost effective and sustainable to plan for this in advance and build access features into development rather than retrofit later.

Bad access has consequences – like older people having falls and winding up in acute care. A set and forget approach with the Disability Standards is not good enough.

A range of people are undertaking work to plan, educate, promote, broker and regulate solutions for access and this work may be high quality but it is not always coordinated for maximum effect.

For instance, during our consultations we found that the Access City project funded by the ACT Government to broker access solutions was not cognisant of or utilising Disability Confidence Canberra which was also funded by the ACT Government and had been developed to make business more responsive to disability access and provide them with the tools to make a change.

A joined up approach would enable the disability sector going into a business precinct with a full gamut of joined up tools and resources. It would mean a complaint about an access issue triggered both a brokerage response and an educative response with the regulatory response offered as a fall-back. This does not happen.

Players in the space currently include Territory and Municipal Services, the ACT Human Rights Office, the Community Services Directorate, the Council on the Ageing and Disabled Peoples Organisations.

Canberra has a unique opportunity to drive for improvement in access and incentivise a community response as a whole of jurisdiction launch site for the NDIS. More than 5000 will transition to the NDIS by July 2016 and the joint investment in the ACT is expected to the $342 million by 2019-20.

If we are ever going to land a fully accessible city for people with disability and older Canberrans now is the time to do it. This may not always require extra resources – but it does require a harmonised, determined effort with a range of stakeholders pulling in the one direction.

There are challenges created by new disruptive platforms like Uber and new technologies like touchscreens. Canberra tends to be an early adopter of innovations like these but it lacks a focal point of strategic advice to ensure that they are as accessible as they can be.

There are ongoing access blackspots in Canberra which are hard to shift. These include improving access to the retail “courts” in Belconnen and Woden, older areas of Canberra like Manuka, parts of the city and intractable issues with wheelchair taxis. There is an uneven adoption of measures like tactile indicators, Auslan interpreting and access to web platforms.

There is evidence that Canberra is getting it wrong in new suburbs – PWD ACT points to some of the design in Lawson as a case in point as well as some urban infill work. Again this is a potential risk if it is necessary to retrofit it later.

Due to its combination of State and local government functions Canberra has strengths and weaknesses in planning for disability access. On the one hand we can better coordinate solutions, but on the other hand we lack a source of dedicated consumer lead advice to ensure accessibility in developments such as might be provided by a local government access committee appointed by a council.

PWD ACT welcomes the Government’s commitment to improve transport infrastructure and note the Government has emphasised a mandate for light rail. PWD ACT hopes it will meet and exceed disability access standards across the city. Rail needs to be allied to fully accessible buses; paths of travel to and from the tram stops; improvements to wheelchair taxis; plus a strategy to help disadvantaged people living off trunk routes get where they need to go.

Accessible transport needs to be linked to good city infrastructure. We’re a growing city with an ageing population. Our cityscape remains broken and inaccessible to people with disability – we can’t visit friends in their homes, move around the city, get on a bus or find inclusive affordable and accessible housing. We need a mechanism to feed lived disability access subject matter expertise into both built environment and transport investments.

What needs to happen

While the Disability Reference Group provides important advice on the National Disability Strategy and the NDIS transition, it sits within the Community Services Directorate and its remit is too wide to allow a tight focus on access issues within spaces, places and transport services.

These require a close focus and a dedicated remit with appropriate expertise in the right place.

Canberra needs a separate access focussed reference group, ideally placed within Transport and City Services, which works on access and transport issues alone and has the people, power and resources to make change.

There is a lack of focussed expertise on disability access in Canberra as the issue does not fall within one organisations remit. There is a need for a focal point of advice to get it right. These are specialised issues which involve working with standards but also making sure that we get consumer expertise so that they work for real people.

For instance it’s possible to build a parking space and a curb ramp which both comply with the disability standards and yet don’t work in tandem. Avoiding these issues requires people with disability to be involved. It requires consumer advice and training.

PWD ACT therefore strongly advocates for a discrete and dedicated point of advice working along the lines of the model structure and terms of reference provided as part of our 2016/17 Budget Submission as part of the ACT Budget Community Consultation Process.

PWD ACT also opposes these issues being loaded onto the existing Reference Group without additional resourcing as this may reduce the capacity of this group to be broadly focused and strategic. The adverse risks of loading access issues on to the proposed Reference Group have ben outlined early in this submission.

Leave a Reply