A good life for people with disability and older Victorians

Every Victorian should have the opportunity to enjoy a life of social and economic opportunity, connection and inclusion. However, many Victorians, including people with disability and older people, face barriers to a ‘good life’. These barriers are cultural and systemic. They include discrimination and exclusion, well as gaps in services, support and funding.

The 2020-21 Budget makes investments that will help to address service gaps and connections between the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and universal services, and to provide support for those who are ineligible for the scheme. This is critical because, even though the Victorian Government’s role as a support provider and funder has changed substantially through the roll-out of the NDIS and My Aged Care, the state’s responsibility remains unchanged for delivering inclusive and responsive universal services and accessible places and spaces, and for eliminating systemic disadvantage and inequity. Importantly, these investments will help to protect and promote the rights, safety and wellbeing of people with disability and older people.

This Budget also makes a landmark investment to improve inclusion in Victoria’s schools, and funding is provided to increase the accessibility of Melbourne’s tram fleet.

Older Victorians have been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The health effects of the pandemic, the loss of independence and of social and family connections have left many older people at risk of isolation and loneliness. The Victorian Government is also taking the lead in improving the quality of care and support for older people in aged care and in the community.

 

Positive initiatives

Support for students with disability

$124m in 2020-21 ($1.56bn/4yrs) for the Disability Inclusion package to provide a significant boost to support for students with disability. Through a new needs-based funding model, more students will be eligible for targeted support. 55,000 students will receive additional support at school, facilitator roles will be established to assist schools and families to transition to the new funding approach, and educators will also be supported to build their skills and knowledge. School-level funding will continue to be provided to deliver classroom and school-wide adjustments.

$5.6m in 2020-21 ($388.8m/4yrs) to improve facilities at 39 specialist schools, and $400,000 in 2020-21 ($20m/4yrs) to build inclusive learning spaces and accessible playgrounds for students with disabilities. As part of a $28.5m two-year investment in youth mental health support, the Mental Health Practitioners in Secondary Schools program will be expanded to include specialist schools.

View more analysis on education commitments.

 

Addressing service gaps for people ineligible for the NDIS

$84.2m in 20-21 ($208.8m/4yrs) to support a range of services outside the scope of the NDIS. $5m is also provided to continue coordination supports for NDIS clients with complex needs for a further two years, while the NDIA develops an appropriate and functioning pathway in the scheme.

 

100 new accessible trams

$1.48bn/4yrs has been committed to purchase 100 Next Generation Trams, enabling the retirement of the high-floor tram fleet and supporting Victoria’s progress towards compliance with the Commonwealth Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (DSAPT). Currently only 38 per cent of Melbourne’s tram fleet provide low-floor access, despite the targets set by the DSAPT 18 years ago.

 

Support and social connections for older Victorians

$886.9m in 2020-21 for ageing, aged and home care supports includes wide-ranging supports and initiatives, from in-home, specialist geriatric and residential care, through to the Home and Community Care Program (HACC) for older people, people with disability and carers. Specific initiatives in the 2020-21 Budget include:

  • $6.7m in 2020-21 to build social connections and reduce isolation, and to address elder abuse by enhancing the identification and response capacity of public health services
  • An additional $27.6m in 2020-21 to assist in meeting nurse-to-patient ratios and delivering high-quality public sector aged care services
  • Funding to upgrade and improve aged care facilities, including $10m in 2020-21 for the Rural Residential Aged Care Facilities Renewal Program and $80.2m over four years for the Modernisation of metropolitan Melbourne Public Sector Residential Aged Care Services Strategy, which includes the development of a new 150-bed, state-of-the-art and dementia-friendly facility in Cheltenham, and designing and planning for a new 90-bed facility in Coburg
  • $40m/4yrs to support an increase in aged care student placements for nurses and personal care workers, subject to the Commonwealth accepting and funding recommendations from The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to introduce minimum mandated staffing ratios in all residential aged care facilities.

 

State Disability Plan

$5.3m in 2020-21 ($11.7m/4yrs) to develop and implement the 2021-2024 State Disability Plan. The package includes 3,150 additional autism assessments over four years as part of Victoria’s Autism Plan, continuation of funding for the Disability Liaison Officer program to assist with safe access to testing and treatment, and support for the Disability Advocacy Outreach program.

 

Disability Worker Regulation Scheme

$6.7m in 2020-21 to support the Disability Worker Regulation Scheme, administered by the Disability Worker Registration Board of Victoria and the Victorian Disability Worker Commissioner. While the complaints and notifications aspects of the scheme commenced in July 2020, the commencement of voluntary worker registration was delayed until July 2021.

 

Impact 21

$1.3m in 2020-21 to deliver the Impact 21 program, creating new employment pathways for people with an intellectual disability, including Down syndrome.

 

Continuation of funding for the Office of the Public Advocate (OPA)

$2.5m in 2020-21 to continue the OPA’s guardianship, investigation and Independent Third Persons programs.

 

Continuing the intermediaries program

$2.4m in 2020-21 to continue the Intermediaries Pilot Program, which provides specialist communication assistance for children and adult witnesses or victim-survivors with a cognitive disability to provide evidence to police and in court.

 

People with disability in the justice system

$1.9m in 2020-21 ($4.8m/2yrs) to support people in youth justice and corrections to access the NDIS.

 

Addressing social connections across generations and responding to elder abuse

$6.7m in 2020-21 for the continuation of COVID-19 responses, including a six-month extension to the Community Activation and Social Isolation program and support for the clinical response to elder abuse.

 

Further policy directions

While the State Budget provides a welcome extension of funding for the Disability Advocacy Outreach program, there is a strong case for increased investment in core funding for disability advocacy organisations going forward. People with disabilities are at higher risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation than the general population, and disability advocacy plays a crucial role in quality and safeguarding. Disability advocacy is also vital in overturning barriers to accessing information, mainstream services and NDIS supports. Disability advocacy organisations cannot keep up with demand, and the Disability Royal Commission has called for more funding for the sector following its special hearings on COVID-19. Self-advocacy is also an area requiring greater consideration – many of the smaller self-advocacy groups struggle with financial sustainability in the absence of core funding and in the context of a competitive grants environment.

Housing is the foundation for a good life; looking ahead, it will be important to ensure Victoria’s ‘Big Housing Build’ is accessible to all. The Victorian Government is investing $2.7bn in 2020-21 ($5.3bn/4yrs) to construct 12,000 new social and affordable homes across metropolitan and regional Victoria, under the Big Housing Build. It is vital these new homes are built to meet universal design standards to ensure they are accessible and adaptable for people with disability and older people.

While investment in accessible trams is a welcome initiative, the full potential of the new fleet will not be realised if Melbourne’s network of tram stops is not also upgraded to allow safe, easy access. Less than one-third of Melbourne’s tram network is serviced by level-access stops, and just two level-access tram stops are allocated in the 2020-21 Budget. Three planned upgrades from 2019-20 have not been completed due to approval delays. The $3m Tram Corridor Strategy flagged in the 2020-21 Budget should build on the $3.1m Tram Stop Accessibility Strategy funded in the 2019-20 Budget and consider opportunities to enhance service capacity, frequency and reliability for all passengers.

The Commissioner for Senior Victorians’ recent report – Ageing Well in a Changing World – shares the views and vision of older Victorians about what it means to ‘age well’. The report includes a range of recommendations that VCOSS encourages the Victorian Government to consider in the context of further policy development and investment.