Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Boost in disability funding – Now it’s time for Mr Latham to act

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, today called on the Labor Party to pass vital reforms which would assist people with mild disabilities back into the workforce.

Announcing that New South Wales (NSW) has signed the third Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement (CSTDA), Senator Patterson renewed the Howard Government’s call for the Opposition to back reforms to enhance job opportunities for people with disabilities.

“Under the Agreement, funding to NSW has increased by over $297 million, bringing the total contribution to NSW to more than $937 million over five years.

“Funding for the third CSTDA includes $2.8 billion to states and territories to fund accommodation and other support services, while providing $2 billion for employment assistance.”

Senator Patterson said although the signing of the agreement by all States was good news, there were other important national measures to be undertaken to assist people with a disability to participate in community life and paid work.

Despite the claims of Opposition Leader Mark Latham that he supports moves to boost workforce participation of people with mild disabilities, the Labor Party has twice blocked the Disability Support Pension Reform Bill in the Senate, she said.

Senator Patterson said: “Our reforms are about increasing employment opportunities and support for people with a mild disability who have substantial capacity to work.

“Too often, people with disabilities face a number of barriers to gaining work – this is a positive move to remove those barriers. The Australian Government’s proposed reform package will provide $258 million for additional services and support to help people on the Disability Support Pension (DSP) to participate in work and the community to the extent they are able.

“We want to give all Australians the opportunity to reach their full potential. If people with mild disabilities are given the chance to get a job it will have a positive impact on the individual, their family and their local community.

“The 670,000 people currently receiving DSP will continue to have support and assistance if they desire to participate in the workforce but they will all be exempt from these reforms.

“I call on Mr Latham to agree to pass the disability support pension reforms.”