Minister Rishworth Doorstop Interview at Parliament House


Topic: Disability Services and Inclusion Bill, Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: I'm really pleased to be here with Neha and Andrea from the National Ethnic Disability Alliance. Today marks a really important day. We've introduced the new Disability Services and Inclusion Act. The Disability Service Inclusion Act replaces an Act back from 1986, an act that hasn't been serving people with disability for a long time. So today is a real milestone. In terms of introducing a new Act that ensures for example, there is now a consistent complaints process available to people with disability in the services that the Government funds outside of the NDIS. Of course, it also will make sure that services… sorry….

[interruption of loud talking from previous doorstop]

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Sorry, yes, just let them know we're talking about people with disability, they might want to be a bit quiet. So what this will now do is provide a code of conduct consistent across all those services that the Commonwealth funds to ensure that people with disability actually have high quality services. It will have a certification process, which is so important that those getting services from the NDIS enjoy, but not those if you're getting services outside the NDIS funded from the Commonwealth. Of course, funding has changed over time and so this Bill will allow the Commonwealth to fund more types of services, ensuring that those services are actually responsive to future needs of people with disability. This Act has gone through significant consultation. I'd like to thank the representatives here from this disability organisation, but also other disability organisations that have had a huge amount of input. One of the key elements coming through to us was the importance of the reference and connection to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability. This is a really important Convention that Australia has signed up to, but of course, the Disability Services Act was embedded well before this. This has been a really, really, important measure and important to actually implement. This has been important big reform for disability services in Australia. And as we go through the Disability Royal Commission, which will be handing down its findings shortly, this of course is in line with a lot of the evidence. We've heard that we have to do legislation with people with disability to make sure that there are safeguards in place and make sure that there are high quality services. So I'll hand over to Neha now, to say a few words.

NEHA PRAKESH, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGY, NATIONAL ETHNIC DISABILITY ALLIANCE: Thank you, Minister. We welcome the Bill as this ensures and broadens the funding for new and existing supports and services for all people with disability including those who are not eligible under the NDIS. We're also very hopeful that the new bill will improve the quality of supports and services that are going to be available, as well as safeguard and protect the rights of people with disabilities. So thank you. I'm going to hand over to Andrea Garcia, policy officer at National Ethnic Disability Alliance.

ANDREA GARCIA, POLICY OFFICER, NATIONAL ETHNIC DISABILITY ALLIANCE: We are excited about the emphasis on inclusion in this Bill. We are hopeful that the Bill will establish an overall vision for an inclusive Australia where people with disability can participate in the community on an equal basis with others. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you were saying before that the previous disability Act had been in place for more than 30 years and that it was outdated – there weren't that many parts of it that were working. How has it taken this long for it to be updated?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: That’s a really good question. It really seems to be one of those areas that just got put to the back of the queue when it came to priorities of governments in the past. Of course, a lot of work was done to establish the National Disability Insurance Scheme. And so a lot of work was done through that legislation to embed legislation that reflected a more modern era. But we have to recognise that the NDIS only provides services to a small cohort of people living with disability. One in six people in Australia live with disability and many of those people get supports outside of the NDIS. Many of those people get some support in the NDIS and some outside. So I think recognising that people do get supports outside of the NDIS, we need to make sure that the high quality, the safeguarding, and importantly, the inclusion is embedded not just in the NDIS, as it was envisaged, but outside the NDIS as well. I think this also got put to the back of the queue, because there is a sense that the NDIS is the only thing the Commonwealth funds when it comes to disability support. But there are a range of things that the Government does fund when it comes to disability support.

JOURNALIST: As you said this would allow the Commonwealth to fund many more disability services. Could you give an example of what some of those would be? And then what's the process to actually action those at the moment?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The Government can only really fund block grant funding. So that's giving block grants out. This will allow for example, funding to be given to support individuals for example. It will allow support around procurement, it will provide a lot more flexibility in the way we fund organisations. It also will give a lot more flexibility in terms of the types of things that we can fund. Things like inclusion support, capability training, at the moment, they can be funded, but they are not subject to the same rigor and safeguards that services in the NDIS actually enjoy. So what this will allow is a clear way of funding these services to provide contemporary but safe and quality services.

JOURNALIST: And in terms of funding. I guess how much do you foresee that expansion of the Commonwealth role costing the Budget and interacting with NDIS funding as well?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We actually already fund a whole lot of services but the funding arrangements are not necessarily attracting the same quality and safeguarding because they're under a different power of the Commonwealth to fund. So many of the grant agreements that we have with organisations, the only safeguarding is in place is what's in the grant agreement. Under this new Act, what will happen is that those organisations that get funding from the Commonwealth will potentially have a grant agreement, but will be subjected to these other safeguarding mechanisms. So there is a lot of things we already fund, we fund disability advocacy. We fund for example, the new program that we announced at the Budget, which is early intervention for autism. We also fund a range of projects called the ILC grants and they provide connections for community with different services. So there are a lot of services we already fund, but the way we fund those only make those organisations subject to their funding agreement. This will provide a layer of safeguarding and support to people with disability and encourage inclusion as well.

JOURNALST: And you said this you think, will deal in advance with some of the things that the Royal Commission is going to raise. But knowing what you do know about the last few years of hearings, I guess, how much more do you think the government and yourself will need to do when those findings come down in a couple of weeks?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I don't want to pre-empt the Royal Commission's findings, they've obviously spent a significant period of time – four and a half years –examining, hearing evidence and putting recommendations in place. But what we do know is that there does need to be clear safeguarding in place. The clear ability for people with disability to be able to raise complaints for example, and so at the moment, the way that we fund these services in different portfolios like education, health and social services don't provide a clear mechanism for complaints, don't provide a clear expectation of what those services have to deliver in terms of safety. So this new Bill, for example, will make clear that NGOs providing supports and services for people with disability outside the NDIS, they must ensure that they are safe and that they have got safeguarding in place. They must adhere to the code of conduct, for example. So these are things that are not necessarily subject to all service provision that the Commonwealth funds outside the NDIS. And I think this is clearly the direction that the Disability Royal Commission was going. Thank you.