Wagga’s disability advocacy services fight funding cuts

Wagga’s disability advocacy services fight funding cuts

Source: Dailyadvertiser.com.au

Stand by me: Wagga's Regional Disability Support Advocacy group fears state-government funding cuts could hurt Riverina residents like Joy Taber (r). Stand by me: Wagga’s Regional Disability Support Advocacy group fears state-government funding cuts could hurt Riverina residents like Joy Taber (r).

Cuts to disability advocacy services could knock the feet out from under Riverina residents like Joy Taber.

It comes as almost half of the groups, who advocate for people with a disability in NSW, face being wiped out, as the state government hands over responsibility for disability services to the Commonwealth.

About 50 NSW groups receive $13 million from the state government annually and with this money, they are able campaign on accessibility issues and push for better outcomes for people with a disability.

But from next July that money will cease as the state government transfers its disability services spending to the NDIS.

The national scheme may give residents with a disability direct funding support, but Wagga’s Regional Disability Advocacy Service chief said it would not include the groups who advocated on their behalf.

For Ms Taber, the service she receives eases the stresses of day-to-day living.

“I can’t read or write,” Ms Taber said. “(RDAS) helps me to fill out forms and to understand letters.”

The 57-year-old Adelong resident has an undiagnosed learning disability. Coupled with a poor education, she said navigating the bureaucracy of government-related services would be impossible without assistance.

“They help me a lot,” Ms Taber said. “I struggle to put sentences together.”

With her husband often away driving log trucks, she said there was no one else to help her.

RDAS executive officer Martin Butcher said Ms Taber was one of 110 advocacy clients across southern NSW who could lose out, if the funding cuts were to come into effect.

He said those living outside Wagga would suffer most.

“We are a voice for residents with a disability,” Mr Butcher said. “We help them with a range of services from information to advocacy.”

Mr Butcher said the free service was vital and independent from government bodies, giving people with disability a voice and a fair go.

He urged residents to sign a NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance #standbyme petition, to stop the cuts from going ahead.

But Disability Services MP Ray Williams said the new scheme would bring more funding to advocacy services than ever before.

“The Commonwealth will provide around $130 million each year to connect people with disability to support services,” Mr Williams said.

“The funding is on top of the $10.6 million the NSW government has provided for advocacy services during the transition to the full scheme.”

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