12 May 2021
National Ethnic Disability Alliance CEO, Dwayne Cranfield has welcomed the additional $2.3 billion investment into the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan announced by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in his third federal budget yesterday.
Mr Cranfield is however doubtful whether the budget will be doing enough for people with disability and people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.
1. Big win – Mental Health
The Morrison Government has pledged to spend an additional $2.3 billion on Mental Health, over a period of four years, including on the “Embrace” project, of which NEDA is part. The Embrace Multicultural Mental Health Project provides a national focus on mental health and suicide prevention for people from CALD backgrounds.
2. Domestic and Family Violence
We were happy to see that the government has committed to an increased spending on front line domestic and family violence programs for migrant and refugee women, including programs to prevent and respond to Family, Domestic and Sexual violence against women with disability: measures that our sector has been advocating for years.
3. National Early Childhood Program for Children with Disability
The introduction of a National Early Childhood Program for Children with Disability Developmental Concerns was also a welcome move. By pledging $17.9 million over 4 years to develop an early childhood program that will deliver a range of disability specific information workshops or supported playgroups for children with disability aged 0-8 years, the government has shown much needed action to invest in young people with disability.
4. National Disability Insurance Scheme
The government has committed to a further $13.2 billion over four years for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which currently provides support to around 450,000 Australians with a disability.
Budget estimates show the program is set to increase in value from $24.6 billion in 2020-21 to $33.32 billion over forward estimates to 2024-25. This would place the cost of the scheme higher than Medicare – with its value of $32.98 billion in 2024-25.
We are pleased that the Treasurer has committed to a full funding of the scheme, as outlined in his comments yesterday: “As the scheme reaches maturity, our focus is on ensuring its sustainability and that it continues to deliver a high-quality essential service for those who need it. Under the Coalition, the NDIS will always be fully funded.”
5. Big losers – migrants
The 2021-2022 budget painted a more sombre outlook for migrants and refugees. As from the 1st of January 2022, anyone granted permanent residency in Australia will have to wait four years before applying for income support payments and other benefits.
Prior to the changes announced by the Treasurer on Budget night, permanent residents were able to immediately access the Family Tax Benefit B and some visa classes were exempt from wait periods.
Our CEO has condemned those changes: “The decision to make migrants wait four years to access essential welfare payments and benefits is cruel, unfair and un-Australian. By increasing the waiting time for migrants to access social services such as carer payment, parental leave pay and Family Tax Benefits, the Government has put a lot of families at risk of financial vulnerability. This move goes against the Committee of the Economic development of Australia (CEDA’s) recommendation of reducing the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period from 4 years to 6 months, to provide better economic opportunities for skilled migrants.
Once again, the Morrison Government has shown little compassion towards our people. We are keen to know more about this decision and how these changes will affect the people we represent.”
6. Cap on new migrants
It was very disappointing to learn that there will be no increase to the number of people able to migrate to Australia once international borders reopen in 2022, despite population forecasts predicting a second year of negative net overseas migration and skill shortages across the country.
7. Digitisation of job seeker services
The Federal Government has announced funding to digitise job seeker services, including jobactive and Disability Employment Services, as early as Jan 1st, 2022.
“We are fearful that a digital/online service will come at a cost and will slowly replace or reduce access to practical face to face or telephone supports. We want the government to understand that face to face telephone supports are typically the only accessible option for many cohorts of people with disabilities.
An online or digital system could make it difficult for people with disabilities from CALD backgrounds to engage with job service programs. We are especially worried for people with intellectual disabilities and humanitarian entrants and refugees who have low levels of English and who might therefore find online systems hard to navigate.
We need more information on the online platform, so we can support and guide our community better,” our CEO said.
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