Labor unveils new approach to improve lives of people with a disability in NSW

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NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley today announced a Labor Government will introduce a comprehensive disabilities package focussed on empowering people with disabilities to work, study and take advantage of the NDIS revolution. 

Speaking at the National Disability Services conference in Sydney, Mr Foley reiterated Labor's strong bipartisan support for the NDIS – a proud initiative of the former Federal Labor Government.

Labor's comprehensive five point policy for people with disabilities includes (see attached):

  1. $10 million Disability Employment Package. Labor will award $10 million to an expert panel headed by Graeme Innes, former Disability Discrimination Commissioner and Cain Beckett, head of the Disability Council. This is a new approach – putting people with disabilities in charge of implementing the latest evidence-based strategies to increase workforce participation.
  2. $12.5 million for Disability Advocacy Groups. Labor will guarantee ongoing State Government funding – worth $6.25 million a year for two years – to independent disability advocacy groups. These groups no longer have funding certainty following the Baird Government's transfer of the full NSW disability budget to Canberra under the NDIS.
  3. Reversing Baird Government TAFE cuts. The Baird Government has cut funding loadings for TAFE institutes to enrol people with disabilities from 60 to 15 per cent – just a fraction of what is needed to hire notetakers, sign language interpreters and other specialised supports. Labor will invest $100 million to rebuild TAFE.
  4. Whole-of-Government Approach to Disability Inclusion. Linda Burney will be Deputy Premier and Minister for Disability Inclusion in a Foley Labor Government. A new Office of Disability Inclusion will be created within the Department of Premier and Cabinet. This will ensure coordinated State Government support for people with disabilities in areas such as health, education, transport and building the stock of accessible social housing.
  5. Parliamentary Inquiry into Disability Abuse. Labor will launch an Inquiry into the treatment of people with disabilities in mainstream and specialist services. The Inquiry will focus on the best regulatory and oversight framework to deal with the new Commonwealth-State arrangements under the NDIS.

Opposition Leader Luke Foley said: “A NSW Labor Government won't simply surrender its responsibilities Canberra under the NDIS. We will pursue a broad social agenda for people with disabilities.”

“If elected in March, my most senior and most trusted colleague Linda Burney will be both Deputy Premier of the State and its Minister for Disability Inclusion.

“A new funding model is not enough. We need nothing less than a new paradigm for thinking about disability.

“If much of the 20th century was defined by institutionalisation, the 21st century must be an era of disability inclusion.”

Mr Foley noted that it was a matter of national shame that Australia is 21st out of 29 OECD nations when it comes to workforce participation for people with disabilities. Under the Baird Government, the unemployment gap has widened – including in the NSW public service. In 2014, only 3.1 per cent of NSW Government employees had a disability compared with 5 per cent in 2006.

"We’ve had a whole term of government where very little has been achieved nor spent on disability employment in NSW," Mr Foley said.

"Graeme Innes, Cain Beckett and their expert team will have a budget of $10 million and my full authority to propose whatever is necessary to lift employment rates."

Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Minister for Disability Services Linda Burney added: "The NDIS won't work without an active State government. Under the Baird Government, TAFE has been almost de-funded from enrolling people with disabilities and the social housing wait list has skyrocketed.

"Labor’s policy announced today is about ensuring the true spirit of the NDIS is realised.”

Read more about Labor's new approach to disability inclusion.