CUTS to funding for disability advocacy in NSW will be wound back, the state government announced on Friday.
The $13 million in funding delivered to advocacy groups, which advocates said formed the bedrock of their operations, had been touted to disappear after the state’s disability spending was transferred to the National Disability Insurance Scheme in July.
The cut was expected to wipe out 50 NSW advocacy groups, but on Friday morning Premier Gladys Berejiklian said $26 million would stay in place to cover the sector between now and 2020.
“We understand the transition has created concerns for people with disability and I want to assure the community we have been listening to those concerns,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“That is why we have set aside this funding. It will make sure people with disability can continue to access services and information, particularly in regional and rural communities.”
Roughly 60 people rallied in Newcastle in March to protest the cuts, with frontline workers arguing that those with disabilities needed someone specifically looking after their interests more than ever under the NDIS.
“It is not the silver bullet and it’s, in fact, a new area in this country in which people with disabilities and their families are needing more advocacy than ever before,” Community Disability Alliance Hunter peer worker Cath Mahony said at the time.
Stand By Me, a coalition of more than 20 groups, had planned a further protest at Parliament House for Tuesday.
Head of Newcastle-based Disability Advocacy NSW Mark Grierson said that rally may go ahead as “more of a celebratory thing”.
While he was keen to explore the details of the funding, Mr Grierson said it was good news.
“I think it’s a vindication of the sector and the work that’s done,” he said. “I think everyone’s pretty happy to get back to their real work.”
Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said the extended funding was “a great victory for disability services in our area and a great victory for common sense”.
“As I’ve said from the start, this plan will give surety to those groups who work hard for people with disabilities,” Mr Piper said.
“It takes away the significant concerns they had and is a fair and reasonable outcome for a sector that is highly valued.
“I have to thank and congratulate Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Disability Services Minister Ray Williams for listening and acting and giving peace of mind to the many people who rely so heavily on these advocacy services.
“I also have to acknowledge and thank everyone who campaigned for this outcome, specifically those in the disability sector who do such a wonderful job, and in particular Serena Ovens from the NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance.”