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Where are the increases in disability services?

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Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Minister for Family & Community Services

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women

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Where are the increases in disability services?

1 March 2002

I am calling on State and Territories to take a hard look at how they provide services for people with disabilities and I intend to use the Disability Minister's meeting today in Melbourne to get them to think more seriously about this important issue.

Findings by the recent Productivity Commission's official report show that in most States and Territories the number of available services has stagnated despite increases in Commonwealth disability funding - this is not good enough.

I would have thought that the substantial increased funding would have lead to significantly increased services but it is clear from the report that there have been no corresponding increases in key disability services.

The Commonwealth provided over $50 million in 2000/01 (with a further $100 million this year) to the States and Territories to help meet unmet demand in State disability services. How has this funding been used to address this unmet demand?

While the States have been giving reassurances that the Commonwealth funds are being spent on meeting demand for services, it is impossible to draw this conclusion from the information available. The States need to be more accountable for what they are doing to help people with disabilities.

I can only assume that some States may have reduced their own funding and people with disabilities are missing out. In fact, families of people with severe disabilities have told me that they have seen no real benefits from the increased money spent over the

past two years - this must change.

I will be calling for better accountability and transparency of funding at the upcoming meeting. People with disabilities should know exactly where the money is being spent and what is being done to fix the gaps in the State systems.

I also intend to take the opportunity to outline my ideas on ways to encourage more choice, better access and increased participation of people with disabilities in the community.

The Howard Government is keen to work closely with State and Territory governments to get the best possible service for people with disabilities and I am going to the meeting with a firm view that we all have to work more cooperatively together.

We all need to look at new and different ways to help people with disabilities reach their full potential. This is a responsibility that we all must accept. I am happy for the Commonwealth to take the lead, but all State and Territories must join in.

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