Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Report finds more people benefiting from disability services

A new report has found the Australian Government’s significant investment in disability services and support is helping to improve the lives of people with disability.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report –Disability support services 2008-09: report on services provided under the Commonwealth State/Territory Disability Agreement and the National Disability Agreement – released today shows that people with disability and their carers are benefiting from increased access to disability support and respite services as a result of significant investment by the Federal Labor Government.

The report found that between 2003-04 and 2008-09 the number of people accessing disability services increased by almost 50 per cent, from 187,806 to 279,374. In addition the number of people accessing respite services rose by 67 per cent, from 20,547 to 34,346 people.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Jan McLucas, said these increases demonstrated that the doubling of Commonwealth funding for disability services to more than $6 billion through the National Disability Agreement will help to deliver improved support for people with disability.

Senator McLucas said the funding increase was part of the Labor Government’s effort to put support for people with disability back on the national agenda after twelve long years of neglect.

“The Commonwealth’s disability funding will reach $1.2 billion by 2012, compared to just $600 million in the previous government’s last year in office.”

Under the National Disability Agreement, the Australian Government is providing more than $6.2 billion over five years to state and territory governments for increased and improved specialist disability services, such as supported accommodation, therapeutic services and respite care.

The report also found the number of people with disability receiving supported accommodation services increased by 6,000 from 33,175 to 39,176.

“The Government will build on this through our election commitment to fund the construction of up to 150 innovative, community-based supported accommodation places for people with disability. These capital grants will start this year,” Senator McLucas said.

“Other major steps to improve support for Australians with a disability and their carers, include boosting funding for disability employment services, developing the National Disability Strategy and formally recognising the role of carers in legislation through the Carer Recognition Act.

“We have also delivered record pension increases to more than 870,000 disability pensioners and carers, improved indexation to ensure it keeps up with the cost of living, and introduced a new ongoing Carer Supplement for 500,000 carers.”

While the report demonstrates there have been notable improvements, it also shows that there is more to be done.

That is why the Labor Government has asked the Productivity Commission to undertake a landmark independent inquiry into the costs, benefits and feasibility of a national long term care and support scheme for people with disability, including consideration of a national disability insurance scheme.

The Government will carefully consider the Productivity Commission’s report when it is delivered.