Monday, 2 March 2015

A temporary reprieve for defunded organisations

Over the weekend it was reported that some 'transition funding' has been temporarily been made available to the peak disability organisation recently defunded by the federal government. Down Syndrome Australia commented on Facebook that the transition funding is a '... positive interim measure, but we need to ensure the voice of people with intellectual disability is well represented long term.'

Disability groups granted temporary funding reprieve
Julia May, Sydney Morning Herald, 1st March 2015
The federal government has made a partial backflip on its cuts to disability groups, granting a temporary reprieve to eight bodies whose funding was due to run out on Saturday. 
Last month the Department of Social Services announced it would cut funding to the disability sector by 40 per cent and support an alliance of just five representative bodies. It left eight bodies representing 200,000 people with disabilities under threat and sparked allegations that the government was in breach of the United Nations convention on the rights of disabled people. 
But on Thursday the eight organisations - including the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, Blind Citizens Australia, Brain Injury Australia and Inclusion Australia, representing people with an intellectual disability – were told they had secured "transition funding" of $450,000 until the end of June ...

These media reports describe some of the most recent protests that have led the government to reconsider its initial decision:

People with intellectual disability need their own peak group!!
NSW Council on Intellectual Disability, 26th February 2015
For 60 years, there have been peak groups specifically representing people with intellectual disability both in NSW and in Canberra.

This representation is now in jeopardy at the national level due to the federal government defunding all single disability peak groups including Inclusion Australia (the new name for the National Council on Intellectual disability) ...
Concern that intellectually disabled left out of NDIS: Experts
Jennifer Macey, PM (ABC radio), 25th February 2015
With federal funding for seven top disability advocacy bodies running out next week, there are fears that people with profound intellectual disabilities could end up ignored by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). 
The peak bodies include one umbrella group for disability, and six more covering people who are blind, deaf, have autism, Down's Syndrome, acquired brain injuries, and people with intellectual disabilities ...
Disability sector funding cuts attacked by former UN committee chairman
Julia May, Sydney Morning Herald, 13th February 2015
The former chairman of the United Nations committee representing people with disabilities has added his voice to the chorus of anger over the government's shake-up of the sector, challenging its claim it is in acting in accordance with the UN convention.
Ron McCallum, who is blind, is a former dean of law at Sydney University and, until December, was chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Disabled Persons in Geneva. He condemned the federal government's action, saying it revived old, outdated attitudes that those with disabilities were not people with rights but "objects of charity". 
Last week the Department of Social Services announced it would fund an alliance of five groups representing disabled people by demographic rather than specific need, plus one service provider.
This threatens eight peak bodies with 200,000 members with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities and sensory disabilities including blindness and deafness. It also cut the amount of funding available by 40 per cent, to $3.6 million. The assistant minister for social services, Mitch Fifield, claimed the new arrangement was consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons. 
But Professor McCallum rejected this, saying the government does not accord with Article 33, relating to monitoring and implementing the convention. "[Senator Fifield] can't rely on the convention to say it approves of what he's doing. He's trying to mask cutting groups and the convention doesn't justify that. He can't use it as a crutch," he said ... read more here.

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