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Funds welcome but more needs to be done.



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Senator Brian Greig Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Disability

14 May 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/320

FUNDS WELCOME BUT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE The Australian Democrats have welcomed the injection of $161 million to help people with disabilities get a job but argued that much more needs to be done if the Government is going to get serious about addressing issues for disabled Australians. Democrats’ Disability spokesperson Senator Brian Greig said the Budget had missed the main thrust of many people’s concerns on where disability services are heading in this country. “Last year’s budget proposed a raft of changes which are still before the Senate and, if passed, would drastically cut entitlements and increase requirements upon people with disabilities,” he said. “Many are very fearful that last year’s proposals will force them into even greater poverty and isolation. There is nothing in this Budget to offer comfort to either people with disabilities or their families and carers. “While $161 million is a significant investment, almost all of this money is going towards administrative reforms that may help employment agencies get better at what they do, but it does not create new jobs or address structural barriers such as discriminatory employment practices and costs of disability.” Significantly, the Government is shifting the focus of its hunt for “welfare cheats” to people with disabilities, more than doubling the number of annual reviews to an estimated 150,000. “This measure is just more of what we’ve come to expect from this Government. It was not enough that people on other welfare payments were targeted as dole bludgers, but the Government now seems intent on branding people with disabilities as welfare cheats as well,” Senator Greig said. “What disability advocates are telling us is that people with disabilities are already reviewed beyond what is necessary. People’s disabilities do not go away after two years on the pension.” The Democrats welcomed the additional funds for carers of young children with a disability, but expressed concern that ageing carers of adult children have not received additional funds. “What families are most worried about is their future, especially as parents get older, because outside carers are harder to obtain and costs continue to increase,” Senator Greig said. “This Government continues to flag changes that will make it harder for people with disabilities - it has very little awareness of the fear, uncertainty and added illness these proposals generate for people already struggling to meet the challenges of their lives.” Media contact: Senator Brian Greig or Chris Thomas on (08) 9228 3133 http://www.democrats.org.au