Media Release by The Hon Bill Shorten MP

Supporting People with Disability, their Families and Carers

Joint Media Release with:

  • Jenny Macklin MP

People with disabilities, their families and carers will benefit from a $1.9 billion boost in funding under a new agreement reached today at a meeting of Disability Ministers in Sydney.

State and Territory Disability Ministers agreed to deliver $900 million in funding, on top of the Australian Government’s $1 billion commitment.

This is a major step forward for Australia’s disability system, which has been hamstrung for years by buck-passing and a culture of reactive crisis management, to the detriment of those it is meant to support.

The $1.9 billion is expected to provide around 2,300 in-home support places, 2,300 supported accommodation places, 9,900 individual support packages and 10,000 much needed respite places, in a range of forms, across Australia.

While today’s agreement marks a valuable and strong first step in addressing unmet need, Ministers acknowledged more needs to be done.

All governments agreed that access to services would be provided on a case-based approach, to ensure people with disability receive appropriate services when needed.

Ministers also agreed to deliver 309 new supported accommodation places through the $100 million in capital announced by the Prime Minister on May 4th which will start to be rolled out immediately.

In total, there will be more than 24,500 places that will begin to ease the anxiety of people with disabilities, their families and carers, many of whom have been waiting too long for support.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has estimated that the total unmet demand for accommodation support and respite services for people with disabilities, their families and carers is around 23,800.

Ministers also agreed to bring about improvements in the areas of advocacy, measurement of unmet need; innovative policy development, quality assurance; research and national consistency for the provision of aids and equipment.

With an emphasis on working smarter, these improvements will be outcome focussed, driven by research, informed by feedback from people with disability and carers and framed in an environment of renewed co-operation between jurisdictions.

Work will also commence on addressing the critical issue of workforce shortages facing the disability services sector across the country and Ministers also agreed that funding inequities raised by Western Australia should be addressed by Treasurers in the course of negotiating funding arrangements for the new COAG-endorsed Specific Purpose Payments.

Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to work to improve outcomes for children and adults with autism, and to continue important initiatives to provide young people with disabilities in residential aged care with more appropriate accommodation.

State and Territory Ministers will also work in partnership with the Australian Government on the development of a National Disability Strategy, which will deliver a whole-of-government, whole-of-life approach to disability planning, in consultation with people with disability, carers and other stakeholders in the disability sector. The Strategy will also seek input from groups within the disability community, such as carers, women, Indigenous Australians, migrants, and people in remote and regional Australia are also represented in policy planning.

Disability Ministers agreed that $51 million, in existing contracts with respite services, will be transferred from the Australian Government to the State and Territory Governments from 1 July 2008.

These agreements complement the existing $324 million that will be provided under the current CSTDA, which was recently extended in line with all other specific purpose payments, until 31 December 2008.

The Governments will continue to work collaboratively through the Community and Disability Services Ministers’ Conference to develop the new disability services agreement, which will be in place from 1 January 2009.

Today’s meeting made further progress on outcome measures for the disability services agreement. A further report will be provided to the next meeting of the Council of Australian Governments.

Further negotiations will continue on other aspects of the new agreement as part of the Commonwealth – State reform agenda.

Today’s successful agreements are yet another example of how Australians benefit when all governments work together.