Media Release by The Hon John Cobb MP

Better Service for Disabled People

The Minister for Community Services, John Cobb, today announced a number of enhancements to the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP) that will increase the availability and improve access to valuable advocacy services for people with disabilities and their families.

‘To be able to meet the fundamental needs, and protect the rights of the most vulnerable people with disabilities, we need a national advocacy program that is resourced and positioned to provide advice or assistance to individuals and their families or carers when and where they need it,’ said Mr Cobb.

A recent review of NDAP found that it remains a valuable and much needed programme but changes could be made to increase the level of advocacy available to people with disabilities, their families and their carers.

‘Some recommendations of the review can and will be implemented immediately,’ Mr Cobb said.

‘Other recommendations and enhancements will require further work from all involved in providing advocacy services with these negotiations to continue over the next 6 months.’

From today all existing 71 funded advocacy services will be offered 18 month funding agreements that will have effect from 1 Jan 2007 through until 30 Jun 2008.

The funding agreement uses the latest format from FaCSIA and does not significantly alter what is expected from services. Services are however being requested to commit to working with the department to improve the NDAP.

‘To immediately increase the availability of individual advocacy services in the states that were identified as having the greatest unmet need; I have approved an additional $600,000 to be made available over the life of the agreements to individual advocacy services in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.

‘Individual advocacy services in these States are being invited to apply for additional funding of up to $45,000 in Queensland and up to $22,500 in NSW and WA to expand their services into regional and remote areas that do not currently receive adequate advocacy coverage.’

Another deficiency in the program is that small services struggle to find the funds to upgrade equipment and train staff. Small services also do not benefit from the same economies of scale that larger services do.

Small advocacy services nation wide are being invited to apply for additional funding of up to $4,500 each for the purchase of equipment and training for staff.

‘Family carers especially those caring for severely intellectually disabled family members also need help in order to provide opportunities and a high quality of life for their loved ones,’ said Mr Cobb.

‘Families are often the primary carers for disabled people and they need assistance or support in providing the level of care and support that is required.

‘By helping families access services to provide for the long term needs of disabled family members, we can as a society both strengthen families and improve the quality of life for all members of the family.

‘To strengthen families I will be requiring all NDAP services to develop operating procedures that will allow them to work closer in partnership with family carers in accessing services and support for disabled people.

‘I will also request that larger state wide advocacy services develop a plan that would allow for increased levels of individual advocacy over the entire state that they operate in.’

All NDAP services will also be required to review their current operations and develop a plan that will allow them to improve their access and service delivery to indigenous people as well as other people with disabilities from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

‘The changes proposed today, along with the plans and proposals that will be developed in the future in conjunction with advocacy service providers, disabled people, support groups and families, will enhance the level and quality of advocacy available to all Australians and ultimately assist people with disabilities achieve their life long goals,’ Mr Cobb said.