Budget 2023: Disability Rights

May 10, 2023

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) welcomes budget measures announced in the 2023-24 Federal Budget which promise modest advancement of the rights of people with disabilities in Australia. 

Natalie Wade, Chair of Disability Rights at ALHR said,“While the 2023-24 Budget has made clear the next steps for the financial sustainability of the NDIS, that is not the only place where action on disability rights has been taken. We are seeing important investments in other areas outside of the NDIS. This investment is fundamental, recognising that there are approximately 500 000 people with disability who access the NDIS and there are 4.3 million Australians with disability.”

“Budget measures including $260.2 million over two years to extend Commonwealth psychosocial supports for people with severe mental illness who are not in the NDIS, $4.2 million over 3 years from 2024–25 to support access to art and music therapy programs and $487.0 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $133.6 million ongoing) to extend, and make ongoing, the Disability Support for Older Australians Program are welcomed.”

Ms Wade continued, “the Budget Measures have a distinct focus on investment in disability public policy which is imperative on realising the rights of people with disabilities in Australia pursuant to the  United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) and is a commended approach. For example $5 million in 2023–24 to develop and implement an Arts and Disability Associated Plan under Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031, $10.2 million over four years from 2023–24 to establish a Central Coordination of Disability Policy function in the Department of Social Services to drive whole-of-government action on disability policy and improve accountability against Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031, and additional funding of $31.4 million over four years from 2023–24 to meet the remaining costs of establishing the National Disability Data Asset (NDDA) and its underlying infrastructure.”

“Australia’s obligations under the UN CRPD are clear that those within the disability community from priority areas deserve specific responses to ensure their human rights are realised. In this respect, we welcome funding targeting youth in education[1], older Australians[2] and those vulnerable to COVID-19[3]. Similarly, budget measures that support First Nations people with disability to improve access to supports in their communities is welcomed. However, ALHR does not see that $1 million to extend individual advocacy support for First Nations people with disability through the National Disability Advocacy Program is sufficient to meet the needs of First Nations people to access these critical services and calls for it to be increased,” Ms Wade said.

“The right to employment is a fundamental human right enshrined in the UN CRPD. Successive Australian Governments have breached their obligations under the UN CRPD by permitting, and supporting, the continuation of Australian Disability Enterprises in their current and historical forms. ALHR is relieved to see the Federal Government will provide $57 million over four years to support the evolution of the supported employment sector, including $11.7 million over four years from 2023-24 to establish a targeted disability employment advocacy service and information program for supported employees. Keeping workers safe in these settings while significant reform is undertaken is essential to the realisation of article 27 of the UN CRPD. ALHR continues to call for the realisation of the right to work for disabled workers, including with equal pay and fair work conditions.”

“While any increase in the rate of social security payments is welcomed, ALHR is clear that the increase to JobSeeker and Payments, including the Disability Support Pension (DSP) for youth is simply not enough to alleviate poverty for vulnerable Australians living on these payments. ALHR notes, in respect of JobSeeker, this cohort includes people with disability who do not qualify for the DSP.

Moreover ALHR is significantly concerned that increases in social security payments are not inclusive of people with disabilities living on the DSP. The current rate of payment on the DSP forces disabled people, who face significant barriers to work, education and social participation that exist in our communities to live below the poverty line. ALHR calls on the Government to ensure inclusion of the DSP in all future budget measures that increase social security payments,” Ms Wade said.

“ALHR continues to be concerned about the budget measure of introducing an annual growth target in the total costs of the NDIS of no more than 8% by 1 July 2026 and that costs will be moderated by $622.8 million in 2026-27 and $59 billion over seven years from 2026-27 to 2033-34. ALHR acknowledges that measures to improve the administration of the NDIS will reduce projected growth to $15.3 billion over four years from 2023-24 but calls for more detail to be provided on what this will mean for Participants and their families. ALHR is concerned that these measures are forecast with no detail on how such significant moderations of costs will be achieved and the impact that will have on participants and their families.”

ALHR cautions that the establishment of an expert advisory panel to identify evidence-based supports for assistive technology and other supports must not reduce the choice and control of Participants to determine what they need for their lives.

ALHR further acknowledges that the National Cabinet has committed to an NDIS Financial Sustainability Framework to deliver the annual growth target of 8%. ALHR reminds the Government that the UN CRPD expects the involvement of people with disabilities and their representative organisations in developing public policy that relates to them, including the Sustainability Framework and recommends that the Government work with disability civil society organisations and people with disability to achieve this.

ALHR welcomes the move to allow for longer plans for participants, however, calls for more detail noting that the NDIA has offered longer plans, for example, of a duration of three years for some time now. The initiative to have longer plans must support the right of people with disabilities to achieve social and economic participation in their communities.

ALHR also welcomes the announcement of $7.6 million over two years to partner with communities to pilot alternative commissioning approaches to improve access to supports in remote and First Nations communities. It is critical to the realisation of the UN CRPD to ensure that First Nations people can access supports in their communities, and that those supports are culturally-safe. We acknowledge that First Nations people with disability living in rural and remote Australia have been left behind in the roll out of the NDIS and welcome measures to change this in a practical and real way,” Ms Wade remarked.

Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.

 [1] $17.7 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $4.7 million per year ongoing) in additional funding for the Higher Education Disability Support Program

[2] $487.0 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $133.6 million ongoing) to extend, and make ongoing, the Disability Support for Older Australians Program

[3] $14.1 million over two years from 2022–23 for targeted financial support for disability workers who deliver personal support to National Disability Insurance Scheme participants, contract COVID-19, and do not have access to leave entitlements