Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

NSW Short-Changes Disability Services $111m In 2001-02

Disabled people in New South Wales are being forced to go without support services as a result of the NSW Government’s inept management of funding for people with disabilities.

There can be no excuse for this appalling lack of concern for the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

To make matters even worse, it appears the NSW Government is actually cutting other disability funding.

In August 1999, the Federal Government guaranteed New South Wales a significant injection of funding for ‘unmet need’ within the disabled community over the following two financial years, 2000-01 & 2001-2002.

NSW took 11 months before it planned its first expenditure in July 2000.

The Commonwealth gave NSW $16.8m in 2000-01.

Fifteen months after funding began and three months into the next financial year, only $3.4m had been spent.

NSW manages and administers all contracts with service providers in accommodation and day services for people with disabilities. They alone have been responsible for who gets funding, how much they get and what they are asked to provide for that money. They alone have had the names and addresses of the organisations receiving the money, and the details of the contracts.

I have recently received those names and addresses from NSW after repeated requests. I am now in a position to contact these providers directly.

We have been told by a number of these providers that the NSW Government is about a year behind in rolling out this money.

NSW has confirmed that tenders for the 2001-02 financial year unmet need money only closed in December 2001. This money should have been actually in the hands of disability service providers six months earlier.

I call on the NSW Government to account for this money. Have any services actually received this unmet need money for 2001-02? If so, which organisations, how much did they get and when did they get it?

The NSW Minister cannot hide behind the statement that the money has been “allocated”. Unless the money is in the pockets of the services it cannot be used to help people with disabilities.

The increase in NSW unmet need expenditure for 2001-02 was expected to be $72m. This is desperately needed money in the sector.

Service providers have been telling me that the NSW Department is a mess. Its management is unable to properly administer funding to people with disabilities.
Service providers have also told us that they believed the NSW Treasury Department demanded that the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care had to make savings in 2001-02. They also believed that they exceeded their savings target by $10m.

At a time when the NSW Government is rolling in money from stamp duty on house sales the prospect of making cuts to disability spending is abhorrent.

Unfortunately figures provided to the Commonwealth also indicate that NSW has not only been withholding new unmet need money, but has at the same time been cutting expenditures in disability services.

The 2000-01 spending on disability services in NSW is reported at $731.966m – an increase of $71.216m on the previous year. However NSW reports that it actually spent $110.25m of new unmet need money in that year. If you only increase your spending by $71m how can you possibly have additional spending of $110m unless you have cut out $39m of your previous expenditure somewhere else in the system?

With $72m in ‘unmet need’ money not yet in the hands of providers and a $39m cut in disability services, people with disabilities have been short-changed by $111m.