Taxi subsidies for people with disability to increase 1 July

Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme rally in Macquarie Street

“I welcome the announcement that subsidies for people with disabilities who rely on taxis will increase from 1 July. People with disability will be relieved to have a start date for the subsidy increase, which the Government announced in December last year”, said Ms Jan Barham, Greens NSW spokesperson for Disability.

The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme provides people with disability a half-price fare. The subsidy is currently capped at $30 per trip. From 1 July 2016, the subsidy will rise to $60, which will provide a full 50% discount on fares up to $120.

“People with disability have campaigned for years to increase the subsidy, which has sat at $30 since 1999. The subsidy should be indexed to CPI so that it doesn’t once again fall behind in covering the cost of taxis.”

“We must ensure there are enough wheelchair accessible taxis on our roads, particularly in light of the legalisation of ridesharing services like Uber. I have also asked the Government about how they will ensure ridesharing companies do not discriminate against people with disabilities, which we have seen cases of in the past few months.”

“Once again I would like to congratulate those who have campaigned to have the subsidy increased. This will have wide-ranging benefits for many people, facilitating participation in their communities and helping them to lead full lives.”

 

Greens NSW MP and Transport spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi said:

“Transport accessibility should be a priority for the NSW Government. The Government has a responsibility to provide affordable transport options for people who are unable to use the public transport system.”

“While public transport accessibility still has a long way to go, particularly on the train network, the doubling of the taxi transport subsidy is long overdue and a welcome reform,” she said.

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891 or Mike de Waal for Mehreen Faruqi on 0474 437 111.

Government’s Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme and Wheelchair Accessible Taxi announcement: http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/b2b/releases/20160529-wheelchair-accessible-taxis.pdf

Jan’s media release welcoming the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme reform announcement on 17 December 2015: http://www.janbarham.org.au/category/portfolios/disability/

Royal Commission into violence against people with a disability to be raised at COAG

“I congratulate the NSW Minister for Ageing and Disability Services John Ajaka on his commitment to raise the call for a Royal Commission into violence, neglect and abuse against people with a disability at the next meeting of the Council of Australian Governments”, said Ms Jan Barham, Greens NSW spokesperson for Ageing and Disability.

 

This week, in response to Ms Barham’s question as to whether Minister Ajaka would commit to propose or support through the COAG Disability Reform Council a Royal Commission into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability, the Minister stated that he would ‘raise this question by Ms Jan Barham at the next COAG meeting because this question deserves the respect of all Ministers responsible.”

 

“I am pleased the Minister will be taking this important issue to the next meeting of COAG.”

 

“This week, we heard a report that an estimated 90 per cent of women with an intellectual disability have been the victim of sexual assault. This is a shocking figure and underscores the need for a full investigation into the prevalence of abuse committed against people with a disability in Australia”.

 

Late last year the Australian Senate Inquiry into abuse against people with a disability in institutional settings chaired by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert recommended that there must be a Royal Commission into violence, abuse and neglect against people with a disability.

 

“All people with a disability have a right to be safe from harm, whether they live in the community or an institutional setting. A Royal Commission would shine a light on abuses committed against people with disability and help address this shocking problem.”

 

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Jan’s question without notice to the Minister and the Minister’s response: http://bit.ly/1ZuYbZe

Senate Inquiry into violence, neglect and abuse against people with a disability in institutional settings: http://bit.ly/1MBKr9Q

‘Australia’s most shocking statistic: Sexual abuse and domestic violence against women with disabilities’ Ginger Gorman – news.com.au: http://bit.ly/1LA2ws5

Getaboutable: A great boost for accessible tourism

Jan Barham, NSW Greens spokesperson for Disability and Tourism has applauded Getaboutable, a website developed in Australia that provides information about accessible tourism for people with a disability.

Getaboutable lists accommodation, transport and entertainment options that are accessible for people with mobility impairments, vision impairments or hearing loss.

“This is a fantastic example of a tool that promotes accessible tourism and I encourage businesses that are accessible to list their information on the site so that it can grow”, said Ms Barham.

“If tourism destinations aren’t accessible or haven’t looked at this sector, then now is the time to act. This is particularly important for regional areas, where accessibility can give them that all important point of difference.”

Ms Barham said that the tourism industry must recognise that accessible tourism is not only good for the community; it’s also good for business.

“Almost one if five people in Australia have a disability. The National Disability Insurance Scheme will see a lot more people with disability securing their independence and the ability to travel. The tourism industry must get on board with accessible tourism or risk losing a substantial customer base.”

“Getaboutable gives businesses an excellent opportunity to reach out to people with a disability both in Australia and internationally, while providing much needed information about accessibility. I look forward to its success and congratulate the instigator, Yasmine Gray from Canberra for this innovation.”

For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

 

  • Getaboutable: http://getaboutable.com/
  • Research suggests that accessible tourism contributes $4.8 billion to the Australian economy, but this could be $8.7 billion if latent demand was met.[1]
  • In NSW, 30% of the population is aged 65 and over or has a disability.[2]

[1] Darcy, S. (2010) ‘Economic Contribution of Accessible Tourism’ Accessible Tourism Research http://accessibletourismresearch.blogspot.com.au/2010/01/economic-contribution-of-accessible.html

[2] ABS (2013) Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of findings, 2012 http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4430.02012?OpenDocument

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

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

NDIS Scorecard highlights that NSW Government must rethink service withdrawal and ensure independent advocacy

The results from a Citizens’ Jury evaluation of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) progress are a welcome endorsement of the potential of the scheme to improve opportunity and services for people with disability but highlight key risks that the NSW Government must address, warns Jan Barham MLC, the Greens NSW Disability spokesperson.

“The NDIS Scorecard gives us an early indication of how the implementation of the NDIS implementation is progressing, based on a citizens’ jury process that was inclusive of people with disability as jurors and participant witnesses,” Ms Barham said.

“I congratulate People with Disability Australia (PWDA) who led the process and welcome the finding that the NDIS is providing a path for improved quality of life. The jury’s unanimous findings reinforce the intent and potential of the NDIS. The scorecard is a reminder to all governments and all parties that full support for the successful implementation and rollout of the NDIS is essential.”

Ms Barham noted two specific concerns highlighted by the citizen jury’s report relating to withdrawal of state and territory government services and the importance of access to independent advocacy.

“The scorecard notes that the withdrawal of state and territory government services for people with disability has left a gap in service availability. The NSW Government must take note of this warning and reconsider their unwillingness to guarantee that state government services will remain available to people who want or need to access them.

“The COAG Disability Reform Council is still developing a strategy to ensure a sustainable market that provides choice in service provision and an adequate disability service workforce. The NSW Government’s plan to transfer all disability services to the non-government sector should not proceed without a solid strategy in place to ensure nobody will be left without access and choice of quality support services.

“The recommendations also point to the need for NDIS participants to have access to independent support, advice and advocacy as they go through the process of planning and service choice. Advocacy is another area where a great deal of uncertainty remains, as it is not funded within the NDIS itself and the Disability Reform Council doesn’t expect to finalise a review of the National Disability Advocacy Framework until the end of this year.

“I’m especially concerned by reports that residents of the Stockton Centre, one of the remaining residential institutions in NSW that is in the process of planning for closure, could not be accessed as part of this process by an advocate witness. I’ve asked questions to the Minister about the process for ensuring Stockton residents’ views and rights are addressed previously, including access to advocates, and I will continue to raise concerns about these issues. The NDIS must deliver on its promise of inclusiveness and improved outcomes for all participants, especially those who are already in the most vulnerable circumstances,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

NDIS Scorecard – PWDA media release and link to full report

Question re: disability advocacy for Stockton residents, 20 November 2014

Incoming Government must support a fairer and more caring society

Jan Barham, the Greens’ spokesperson for the North Coast, Aboriginal Affairs, Housing, Ageing, Disabilty and Community Services, has called on the re-elected Coalition Government to adopt a more caring and strategic approach with a priority focus on housing and community services for areas of high vulnerability and disadvantage such as the North Coast.

“The high levels of people who are unemployed, aged, have a disability and receiving income and parenting support payments is an indication of the disadvantage and vulnerability in our region. The risk is that if priorities don’t change with the next government we will see a continuation of vulnerability that can result in intergenerational disadvantage. Without changes there could be more people living in poverty and excluded from full participation in society,” said Ms Barham.

“There must be a focus on investing in communities to deliver fairness and improved opportunity to participate in all aspects of life. It’s time to look at the needs of this community and prepare for the future, with a more caring and compassionate approach.

“In this election campaign the Greens prioritised a boost in social housing with funding of $4.5 billion to build 20,000 homes over 4 years. With some of the longest waiting lists in NSW, there should be a significant increase on the north coast. The lack of affordable housing is threatening the health and wellbeing of the community and putting many at risk of homelessness, especially the young, the elderly and Aboriginal community members.

“Many older people living in caravan parks are facing unaffordable rent increases or eviction, with no other options available. NSW needs new legislation to provide the security and affordability required for our valued older citizens living in parks and villages.”

The Greens are also calling for secondary dwellings grants to assist property owners to build for the aged and disabled.

“We need to deliver appropriately designed and dedicated housing to allow people to stay living in community rather than being forced to move away from their neighbours and families. Funding support at a local level would grow the stock of housing needed and retain community cohesion,” said Ms Barham.

Ms Barham noted that with an ageing population, the NDIS, domestic violence, child protection concerns and a significant Aboriginal population, the region needs additional workers in the community services area to address and prevent risk for the most vulnerable in our community.

“Some of the disadvantage experienced in the region could be overcome with a greater investment in early intervention services and additional workers. The community service sector is in need of additional staff and the Greens are calling for a training financial assistance scheme to encourage and support more people entering the caring workforce. The need for increased Aboriginal specialist services is crucial and would create much needed employment opportunities as well as culturally appropriate services,” said Ms Barham.

Taxis are the main form of transport for some residents who have significant disabilities to allow them to access medical, health and work opportunities.

“The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme has not been increased for 16 years and this is grossly unfair. An increase in this vital service would benefit inclusion for those who are otherwise disadvantaged, especially in the regions,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham also warned that recent funding cuts by the Federal Government to parent and youth services have shown a lack of foresight and investment in the future, which the NSW Government must work to rectify.

“The Greens call on the State Government to lobby against the Federal Government funding cuts to important programs that support young people at risk and that provide skills for the transition to adulthood and independent living, and to make up for any shortfall in federal funding as they have done for pensioner concessions. The funding cuts to important programs that support new parents are a dangerous move that puts child welfare at risk, and which will end up creating additional social harms and put pressure on state services in child protection, juvenile justice and other sectors,” said Ms Barham.

“It’s time to overcome the history of the major parties ignoring the needs of the regions. While North Coast seats were a major focus in this election and coal seam gas was an especially crucial issue, the wellbeing of North Coast communities has been off the radar for too long.

“Without a commitment to social infrastructure investment for the region, there will be continuing disadvantage. The true test of a progressive society is how well we care for those in need and plan for the future wellbeing of all of our residents.

“The Greens are committed to caring for the most vulnerable in our society. I will be focusing on these issues when Parliament resumes, hopefully with two new North Coast Greens members in the Legislative Assembly to echo the focus for the region’s communities,” Ms Barham concluded.

For further comment, contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Planning for a more caring community

  1. Investment in social housing – announced $4.5 billion to deliver 20,000 new homes in NSW over 4 years
  2. Financial grants for the delivery of appropriately designed secondary dwellings for older and disabled people – $20,000 per property
  3. Care Workforce Strategy – grants to assist people in training in the community sector – aged, disability and child protection and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  4. Residential Parks protection – legislation to secure the rights of people living in residential parks against high fees and eviction
  5. Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme – increase funding that has been stagnant for 16 years
  6. Youth programs – return funding to crucial youth programs that have been cut by federal government eg. Links to Learning, Youth Connections and REALskills – approx. $700,000 for region

Welfare report highlights the need for urgent NSW action on disability employment

The recommendation of a Jobs Plan for people with disability and mental health conditions in the final report of the federal Reference Group on Welfare Reform highlights the need for urgent action by state government to pull its weight in delivering jobs, says Jan Barham, Greens NSW spokesperson on Disability.

“Although some proposed changes to income support and housing assistance raise concerns, governments need to understand the fundamental importance of making their first actions to improve the opportunities for employment for people with disability. A national Jobs Plan would be a welcome initiative, but it needs to be supported by action at a state level,” Ms Barham said.

“There is a great deal more that state government can do to assist people with disability into employment. Investment is needed in a targeted campaign aimed at educating employers on the positives of hiring people with disability, challenging negative attitudes and removing persistent stereotypes.

“Vocational training and education need urgent action to reverse the impacts of funding cuts on people with disability, especially when punitive changes to federal support payments remain on the table. State government needs to partner with local government and the private sector to ensure people with disability have pathways from training into quality employment opportunities,” Ms Barham said.

“The NSW Government scrapped its Payroll Tax Rebate Scheme that provided subsidies for employers willing to hire people with intellectual disability after the take-up rate was low. Instead of abandoning it, the scheme should be expanded to include employment of all people with disability, and initiatives to support disability employment need to be more actively promoted by government.”

Ms Barham also called for the Government to act as a model employer of people with disability and address the downward trend in public sector employment of people with disability.

“As the largest employer in the state the NSW Government should be leading the way in removing employment barriers and providing opportunity to people with disability. But their EmployABILITY strategy failed to deliver on its modest targets, and rates of disability employment in the public sector have continued to drop.

“In 2014, people with disability made up only 3.1 percent of the public sector workforce, and the public sector employees with disabilities that required workplace adjustment was below one percent. By comparison, the National Disability Insurance Agency has achieved an 11 percent rate of employment of people with disability,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham also noted that the success of a jobs strategy would rely on the NSW Government delivering appropriate and affordable transport and housing.

“The Greens are committed to increasing the taxi transport subsidy for people with disability and improving public transport accessibility. The Greens support an investment to boost the supply of affordable housing, including priority delivery of accessible and supported housing for people with disability,” Ms Barham concluded.

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

Greens commit to opportunity and inclusion for people with disability

Jan Barham, Greens NSW MP and Disability Spokesperson, has welcomed the release of People with Disability Australia’s (PWDA) 2015 NSW election platform and called on all parties to ensure NSW supports participation for people with disability in all aspects of life, including employment, education and housing.

“The next NSW Government must improve services and reduce barriers for people with disability. The Greens’ policy on disabilities show our commitment to ensuring those outcomes are delivered,” Ms Barham said.

“People with Disability Australia and other organisations such as the NSW Council on Social Service have released election platforms that set a path for greater inclusion and participation by people with disability.

“Some of the actions called for in those platforms are ones I have campaigned actively for in the Parliament, such as raising the support provided by the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme to ensure the people who rely on it have affordable access to transport so they can engage in study, work and social activity.”

Ms Barham also welcomed the call for parties and candidates to declare their commitment to the closure of large institutional centres in NSW.

“Large institutions must be closed in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Institutional accommodation separates people with disability from participation in the community. We need to ensure people with disability have access to housing that suits their individual wants and needs, and that wherever they choose to live they will have access to the support services they need.

“Closing these centres requires the Government to deliver appropriate housing and ensure that the funding and services are available to provide for people’s care and support. It also requires advocacy and consultation to ensure people living in institutions gain access to the types of housing and services they want and need.

“The Greens have continued to monitor and raise concerns where closure plans leave people with disability and their families uncertain about when and how it will happen, and what the outcomes will be in terms of the housing and care services that will be available. This process needs clarity and inclusiveness.”

Ms Barham also noted that the Greens do not support the current NSW Government’s plan to entirely withdraw from its responsibilities and service delivery roles in the ageing, disability and home care sectors.

“I hold serious concerns about the Coalition’s premature announcement that it is vacating the sector and will limit its responsibilities to funding services through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

“The NSW Government has an obligation to ensure access to appropriate, adequate services across the state. They must retain a role in delivering supports where choice in non-government services is unavailable.”

Ms Barham called on all members of the public to talk to their local candidates about the importance of the NSW Government’s role in supporting people with disability and ensuring opportunity for their participation.

“While the NDIS is a landmark reform for Australia, its rollout can make it too easy for other disability issues to be overlooked. Most people with disability won’t be eligible for the NDIS and it doesn’t address many of the issues affecting participation for people with disability. The NDIS won’t ensure people with disability have better job prospects, more accessible public transport or improved opportunities for study and housing.

“The State Government and the Parliament to be elected on 28 March must make a strong commitment to funding and delivering opportunities and services for people with disability. All candidates and political parties must explain their plans for people with disability in terms of housing, transport, jobs and wellbeing.”

The Greens NSW policy on Disabilities

People with Disability Australia’s Election Platform NSW 2015

Speak, Plan, Act! NCOSS Election Platform 2015

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

Petition: Fix the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme

Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme rally in Macquarie Street

People with a disability have a right to engage in work and recreation but access to suitable transport can be limited and unaffordable. The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme (TTSS) was introduced in 1981 at a time when there were no public transport options available to people with disability.

The maximum subsidy cap of $30 was last increased in 1999 – 15 years without an increase! Taxi fares have increased by more than 60% over the same period. Victoria increased its scheme in 2008 (from $30 up to $60), which is now double the subsidy cap in NSW.

I hosted a forum in Parliament on 21st October 2014, and ahead of the event there was a rally outside Parliament House. You can also hear more about the issue and the effects of a low taxi transport subsidy on people’s lives in this ABC radio report.

I’m collecting signatures on a petition calling on the NSW Government to increase the subsidy cap. Because the Parliament doesn’t accept electronic petitions, they have to be received in printed form. Please download the petition using the links below, then sign them and collect as many signatures as you can, and send them in to my office (the address is on the petition). Help us to make sure people with disability have fair access to the opportunities to participate in work, recreation and everything else many people take for granted!

Download the petition as a PDF document

Download the petition as a Word document

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