People with disability win their right to transport independence in NSW

Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme rally in Macquarie Street

Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson on Disability has applauded the NSW Government’s decision to double the subsidy available to people with disability to help them cover the cost of taxi transport.

“This is welcome news for people with disability in NSW who rely on taxis for transport. It will provide people with the financial assistance needed to be independent in their local communities”, said Ms Barham.

The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme provides assistance of 50% of the taxi fare up to a maximum of $30 for people with a disability who cannot access public transport. The NSW Government has announced it will increase the cap to $60 and also boost incentives to put more wheelchair accessible taxis on the road.”

“People with disability have campaigned for years to have this subsidy increased, which has been capped at $30 since 1999.”

“In 2013, I put forward a motion calling for an increase to the subsidy, which was supported by the NSW Legislative Council.”

“Last year, I hosted a forum in Parliament to hear from people with a disability who relied on taxis for transport. The message was clear: the subsidy no longer reflected the real cost of using taxis. The high out-of-pocket costs incurred by people who have no other transport option but taxis was preventing them from engaging in employment, education and maintaining their social connections.”

“This increase is especially important for people in regional NSW who often have little or no access to public transport and often pay large taxi fares because of long travel distances.”

The subsidy increase was announced as part of the NSW Government’s response to the Point to Point Transport Taskforce report on taxis, hire cars and ridesharing in NSW.

“I call on the NSW Government to index the subsidy by CPI annually, so that we don’t, once again, see the subsidy eroded over time. I also call on the Government to announce a start date for the increased subsidy to give people with disability certainty and clarity, particularly in light of the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.”

“I congratulate all those who have campaigned to have the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme increased.”

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Government’s response to the Point to Point Transport Taskforce

Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme

Good progress on mental health follow-up care but better support for patients and carers needed

Jan Barham, NSW Greens MP and spokesperson on Mental Health welcomed today’s Auditor-General’s report on mental health post-discharge care, which found that follow-up care has generally improved across NSW.

“Follow-up care for people admitted to hospital because of a mental health episode such as attempted suicide is critical to ensuring patients’ health and wellbeing once they are discharged”, said Ms Barham.

“I’m pleased that NSW Local Health Districts have improved their rates of post-discharge follow-up and that reporting requirements for LHDs appear to be improving continuity of care for patients.”

Three of the Local Health Districts audited had reached the 70% benchmark for provision of follow-up care within seven days of discharge. Of the remaining two, one had recorded an improvement, but still fell below the benchmark (Sydney, 58%), while Northern NSW had recorded a decline over the past five years, with 60% of patients receiving follow-up care.

“It’s important that Local Health Districts not meeting the benchmark work to ensure patients receive follow-up care. The NSW Government should look at whether these districts need further resourcing to improve care of people once they return to the community.”

The report was critical of health services’ interaction with care recipients who were often not provided with discharge summaries, and many carers and families were not advised of discharges.

“Care recipients must be at the centre of the follow-up care process if we are going to have client-led recovery. Their carers and families must be included every step of the way so that they can support them once they return to their communities.”

“This is particularly important for patients who return to communities outside the Local Health District. Follow-up rates for these patients are as low as 13%. Involvement of families and carers could help address this issue but there also needs to be better coordination between health districts to ensure that continuity of care is achieved.”

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Auditor-General’s report on mental health post-discharge care

Public and Affordable Housing Needs To Be Key In Waterloo Metro Development

NSW Greens Member for Newtown Jenny Leong, which covers the Redfern area, and Jan Barham, Housing spokesperson have responded to today’s announcement that a private Metro station will be built in Waterloo highlighting the serious housing concerns.

Two thousand existing public housing residences will be demolished to make way for the development.

Member for Newtown Jenny Leong says:

“The announcement by the state Government today will see Urban Growth taking over the development of large parts of our Redfern/Waterloo public housing community. This is cause for serious concern – not because redevelopment of public housing isn’t needed, but because Urban Growth’s track record in our area has seen some pretty devastating outcomes – including the selloff of the Australian Technology Park site and massive proposed overdevelopment at North Eveleigh.”

“While we acknowledge the Government’s commitment that the number of social housing dwellings will be maintained in the new development, we need to ensure that these dwellings will continue to house the same number of residents.

“We have seen cases of redevelopment of public housing where the number of dwellings has been maintained but with a significant reduction in size. As a minimum we need a commitment that there will be no reduction in the number of bedrooms or number of residents that can be housed.

“Our community needs a significant investment in affordable housing, which needs to come on top of any commitment to maintain existing public housing.

“Reports suggesting two thirds of the redevelopment will be private and one third social and affordable housing has the priorities wrong – we need to see these figures reversed.

“Urban Growth might pull all the strings when it comes to decisions made by the NSW Government but they do not control this community.

NSW Greens Spokesperson for Housing, Social Housing and Homelessness Jan Barham says:

“With almost 60,000 people on the waiting list for social housing in NSW it’s not enough to maintain existing numbers of social housing properties. The redevelopment around Waterloo is a prime opportunity to provide more inner-city social housing, which allows people experiencing disadvantage to live close to transport and with good access to opportunities for work, education and support services.

“The private rental market in inner Sydney is simply out of reach for people on low and moderate incomes, leaving too many essential workers forced with long commutes and reduced quality of life. The windfall that will come from the private residential components of this development should allow the Government to allocate a higher percentage of the dwellings to be affordable rental housing to accommodate more of these key workers.

“It’s important that the design of this area promotes accessibility and creates housing opportunities for people with disability and older people, for whom much of the existing housing stock is inappropriate.”

“Minister Hazzard’s assurance that existing residents will have the opportunity to transition into new social housing in the area where their life, services and social supports are based is welcome but must be managed appropriately. It’s essential that the Government minimises displacement and disruption for tenants and makes every effort to ensure they maintain their community connections and aren’t forced to move far away due to the lack of suitable housing nearby.”

Further information:

Dan Buhagiar for Jenny Leong 0457 512 649
Jan Barham 0447 853 891

Clearing the Aboriginal land claims backlog must be a NSW Government priority in 2016

The Auditor-General’s latest update on Aboriginal land claims shows that the Government must significantly increase the resources available for Crown Lands to address the backlog and deliver on the promise of land rights, says Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson on Aboriginal Affairs and Crown Lands.

“The Auditor-General’s report on Trade and Investment shows that despite having enacted the Aboriginal Land Rights Act more than 30 years ago, successive governments’ failure to process tens of thousands of claims means that it isn’t delivering the opportunities for economic development and self-determination that should be available to Aboriginal people,” Ms Barham said.

“The Auditor-General’s repeated recommendation to clear this backlog can only be fulfilled if the Government delivers a significant increase in priority and resources for the processing of land claims, along with a constructive and transparent process for negotiating Aboriginal Land Agreements under the land rights amendments passed by the Parliament last year.

“In 2014-15 the number of unprocessed claims rose to more than 28,000, and 754 of those claims have been left unresolved for more than a decade.

“I welcome the Government’s effort to reduce the number of land claims that had been approved but weren’t transferred out of the Department, but there are still 220 approved claims covering land valued at $742 million that must be transferred to Aboriginal ownership as quickly as possible.

“In 2012 the Auditor-General called on the Government to develop a plan for addressing the backlog of Aboriginal land claims. Last year the Parliament passed legislation that will allow the negotiation of voluntary agreements between Government and Land Councils.

“Aboriginal land agreements create the possibility of addressing more than one claim at a time and finding a way forward that is agreeable to all stakeholders, but this framework needs to be backed up by a transparent, inclusive process for proceeding with those negotiations.

“Importantly, the Government must ensure that the 2016 Budget commits the funding and resources required to allow a much greater degree of effort at resolving claims, both through determining them individually and by entering negotiations for land agreements.

Ms Barham called on the new Crown Lands Minister, the Hon. Niall Blair, to reinvigorate the land rights movement in New South Wales and overcome the issues that have undermined the land claims process.

“During the previous Parliament the Government caused unnecessary damage to their credibility and standing with Aboriginal people and organisations by introducing legislation to extinguish land claims relating to coastal lands.

“I’ve been pleased that Minister Blair has engaged far more constructively on these issues since his appointment as Crown Lands Minister. With ongoing commitment and the right processes and resources, he has the opportunity to restore faith in the Aboriginal land rights framework by working hard to address the backlog of claims,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Auditor-General’s Report Volume Twelve 2015: Trade and Investment

Paris Climate Agreement: New South Wales must enact legislation committing to 1.5 degree limit on warming

Greens MP Jan Barham has welcomed the adoption of strong goals to limit global warming at the United Nations conference in Paris and called on the NSW Government and other parties to support climate change legislation that has already been tabled in Parliament by the Greens.

“Premier Baird and Environment Minister Speakman can no longer sit on the sideline and avoid the issue of climate change. They need to take decisive, strong and transparent action,” Ms Barham said.

“The international agreement to attempt to limits global warming to 1.5 degrees and ensure warming is well below 2 degrees puts the onus onto governments at every level to play their part. The UN conference has recognised that developed countries must lead the way, and it’s clear that the Australian Government’s targets and policies are inadequate.

“New South Wales has the capacity to start a rapid transition to clean energy and reduced emissions across our society and all sectors of the economy.

“Now that there is a clear international commitment to strive for a 1.5 degree limit on warming, we need to lock in action by adopting a legislated target to reach net zero emissions by 2040 and ensuring all government agencies are working with communities and industry to plan the transition that will get us there.

“The Greens have a Bill before the NSW Upper House that would set in place a target of net zero by 2040, require governments to develop the plans for emissions reductions and climate change adaptation, and hold every government agency accountable by giving the public the capacity to initiate legal proceedings against any policies that are contrary to the plans for climate action.

“The Paris Agreement has also recognised the need for governments to address the full range of impacts of global warming, including on health, agriculture, biodiversity and emergency management.

“The community has the right to expect elected governments to be transparent and accountable about how they address their duty of care to current and future generations.

“When Parliament resumes next February, every party should show they’re serious about fulfilling this global commitment by supporting our strong and sensible framework for climate action consistent with aiming for a 1.5 degree limit on global warming.

“The global momentum for action is growing and with an agreement to review progress every 5 years it will only become stronger. Any Government or political party that doesn’t see the writing on the wall for fossil fuels, provide a plan to transition to clean energy and put an end to new coal mining will be undermining our state’s position in the future global economy as well as harming efforts to address climate change.

“This global agreement wouldn’t have happened without the strong movement of activists, campaigners and a growing community movement working for change, by calling on governments and businesses to give up on fossil fuels and embrace the opportunity to transform our society and create new, sustainable industries.

“The Paris Agreement marks the beginning of a new phase in the campaign for climate action, and now the NSW Government must respond with support for genuine efforts and change in our state,” Ms Barham said.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

The Greens’ NSW Climate Change Bill

Service coordination inquiry shows the need for a plan to promote wellbeing across NSW

Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson on Community Resilience, has welcomed the report of a Parliamentary inquiry into service coordination in communities with high social needs.

“Government’s fundamental responsibility is to promote the wellbeing of all people and communities across the state. The recommendations of the inquiry into service coordination offer some important ways to improve their capacity to deliver on that responsibility, to improve our understanding of the challenges and to ensure services address the disadvantage and vulnerability in our society,” Ms Barham said.

“Over recent years I’ve put information on the record many times about the growing evidence about how deep disadvantage has become entrenched in communities within Sydney’s suburbs and regional areas. To ensure all people have opportunities and don’t face barriers to success, we must understand the causes of these issues and deliver the full range of effective, coordinated services that are needed.”

Ms Barham welcomed recommendations to develop a plan for greater use of data that provide indicators of community wellbeing, and to collect evidence about service program outcomes.

“The public, service providers and elected representatives all need access to information about how we are faring as a society and within our local communities, across the broad range of issues that determine our quality of life.

“In 2014 I introduced a Wellbeing Indicators Bill that would provide the framework to produce this information in New South Wales. I strongly encourage the Government to take a comprehensive approach to measuring and reporting on community trends and outcomes, as well as ensuring the services delivered to communities are able to identify the impact they are having on people’s wellbeing.”

Ms Barham also noted the inquiry’s recommendations to provide greater certainty and continuity for service providers and their clients.

“The social service sector has faced unpredictability and, in some cases, outright turmoil, as a result of the State and Federal Governments’ budget cuts, short-term contracts, rushed tendering processes and interim funding arrangements.

“I urge the NSW Government to learn from the shortcomings of earlier processes such as Going Home Staying Home and to take on board the recommendations of this inquiry about minimum five-year funding periods and longer lead-in periods for tendering processes.

“We’re capable of addressing the inequality and disadvantage in our society, with government and non-government services providing support and opportunity where it is needed. This inquiry hasn’t provided all of the solutions but its messages about the importance of improving coordination and focussing on indicators of wellbeing are ones that can make a huge difference if the Government is willing to act,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Final Report, Service coordination in communities with high social needs

Wellbeing Indicators Bill 2014

Speech introducing the Wellbeing Indicators Bill

Greens welcome Shelter NSW proposals to address housing affordability and wellbeing

Jan Barham, Greens MP and Housing spokesperson, has welcomed Shelter NSW’s 2016 budget proposals as a reminder to Government that urgent and comprehensive action is needed on housing.

“Addressing the housing crisis in NSW requires a coordinated approach from the Government that addresses all of the factors affecting general housing affordability for buyers and renters, while ensuring the wellbeing of those who are most vulnerable to gaps in our housing system,” Ms Barham said.

“A long-term boost in social and affordable housing is essential to ensure that people on low and moderate incomes will have the opportunity to live in housing that is suited to their needs and close to their essential work and educational opportunities.

“The Government’s proposed Social and Affordable Housing Fund to deliver $1 billion of new supply is a welcome start but won’t be enough to produce the necessary, enduring growth in affordable housing.

“These proposals from Shelter NSW, including a 10-year social housing boost, 15% affordable housing requirements in all high density developments and developer contributions to ensure a share of the windfalls from rezoning are invested back into affordable housing, offer a pathway to deliver significant growth in social and affordable housing for years to come.

“Reforms to taxation and tenancy laws are also needed to reconfigure the housing system from being driven by speculative investment to being focused on the importance of everyone having a secure home.

“The proposal to broaden the base of land tax would promote the efficient use of our available property and could allow a transition away from stamp duty, which is inefficient and a disincentive to downsizing.

“Removing “no cause” evictions as part of the current review of tenancy laws would provide renters with greater security of tenure and improved wellbeing.

“The proposals also identify key investments that are needed to address areas of housing disadvantage and inequity, including through ensuring homelessness services can reach all people in need, delivering the housing for people with disability that will not be provided through the NDIS, and expanding the capacity of the Aboriginal housing sector.”

Ms Barham noted that the NSW Government had still failed to respond to a comprehensive inquiry into social, public and affordable housing whose recommendations were delivered in September 2014.

“The Government has missed multiple deadlines to develop and deliver the housing policies they need, and our parliamentary inquiry handed them a blueprint for many of the changes that are required.

“I welcome the housing sector’s ongoing efforts to show the NSW Government what can and must be done, and the Greens urge the Government to get serious about delivering a coordinated plan that addresses all of the factors undermining housing affordability in New South Wales,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Housing Everyone: 10 proposals for the 2016 state budget and beyond

Final Report of the Inquiry into Social, Public and Affordable Housing

Call to improve employment rates and stamp out abuse on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

NSW Greens MP and Disability Spokesperson Jan Barham has called for more action to improve employment rates and housing for people with disability and end violence, abuse and neglect committed against people with a disability on today’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

“If we are to have true inclusion of people with disability, we must work towards improving the employment rate of people with disability. Only one in two people with a disability in NSW are in the labour force compared with four in five people without a disability”, said Ms Barham.

Recent figures show that the number of employees with a disability in NSW government departments has fallen to just 2.9% from 4.8% in 2009.

“These figures are shocking, and show that the NSW public service – the largest employer in Australia – is going backwards in employment of people with disability. The NSW public service should be leading the way to improve employment rates of people with a disability.”

“These figures are also disappointing in light of the NSW Government’s Disability Inclusion Plan’s goal to support access to meaningful employment for people with a disability.”

Affordable and accessible housing is also key to achieving equality of opportunity for people with a disability.

“People with a disability should be able to live in the community in affordable housing which meets universal design principles. The National Disability Insurance Agency estimates that there will be a national shortfall of 122,000 suitable homes for people with a disability once the National Disability Insurance Scheme is fully operational. The NSW Government must ensure that there is sufficient accessible social housing, and other forms of affordable housing to meet demand.”

Ms Barham also backed the Australian Senate Committee Inquiry recommendation for a Royal Commission into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings.

“Violence, abuse and neglect of people with a disability is totally unacceptable. The Senate Committee Inquiry showed unequivocally that we, as a nation, have failed to keep people with a disability safe from harm.”

“A Royal Commission would allow collection of better data on the extent of abuse and neglect of people with a disability as well as investigation into cases within institutions.”

“We need to create true equality of opportunity for people with a disability by removing barriers in society to full participation. The NSW Government should renew its focus on achieving the goals outlined in its Disability Inclusion Plan, with particular attention to improving workforce participation and affordable housing for people with a disability.”

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

ABS statistics on Disability and Labour Force Participation (2012)

State of the NSW Public Sector 2015

NSW Disability Inclusion Plan

The Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee report on Violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings

Productivity Commission report a wake-up call for the NSW Government to improve affordable housing for older people

The Productivity Commission’s report on the Housing Decisions of Older Australians released today is a wake-up call for the NSW Government to improve housing affordability for older people.

“The Productivity Commission highlights that older people are constrained in their housing choices because of a lack of age-appropriate housing, and, to some degree, inefficient taxes such as stamp duty”, said Greens spokesperson for Housing and Ageing Jan Barham.

“There is a lack of age-appropriate housing in NSW, which discourages downsizing and sees some older people prematurely enter nursing homes because their home is inaccessible. This issue was identified by both the inquiry into Social, public and affordable housing and the inquiry into Registered nurses in NSW nursing homes.”

“Stamp duty presents another barrier to downsizing and the NSW Government should explore ways of removing this inefficient tax to facilitate smarter use of housing supply.”

“Of great concern is the increasing number of older people who live in private rental, with 220,000 older Australians renting privately. Up to 45% of older private renters are in housing stress, where they pay more than 30% of their income in rent alone. Older renters in New South Wales face insecure tenure, which can have a huge detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing.”

Ms Barham said this report highlights a disconnect between housing and aged care policies as well as a lack of planning at a state level in preparing for an ageing population.

“The NSW Government must invest in a range of affordable and age-appropriate housing options for both older homeowners and private renters so that they can age in place. NSW must increase social housing supply, targeting areas of highest demand, but also explore other options such as increasing supply of independent living units and improving consumer protections in, and affordability of, retirement villages.”

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

The Productivity Commission Report on the Housing Decisions of Older Australians

Inquiry into Social, Public and Affordable Housing Recommendations and Final Report

Inquiry into Registered nurses in New South Wales nursing homes

Renters Rights – Jenny Leong, Greens MP and Rental Tenancies Spokesperson