Disability Information for the Australian Young Greens Conference

I’ll be attending the Australian Young Greens Conference in Sydney this weekend and participating in a workshop on disability issues on Sunday, 5th October. I’ll be taking along some handouts containing information about Greens NSW policy on disability and my work in Parliament advocating for and raising issues that affect people with disability.

You can download those documents here:

You’re always welcome to contact my office if you would like more information.

Premier Baird must stand up for the vulnerable harmed by a cruel Federal Budget

Premier Mike Baird must use Sunday’s meeting of chief ministers to raise the harms the Federal Budget would cause for disadvantaged groups and the pressures it would place on NSW services and programs, says Greens MP Jan Barham.

“The Federal Budget has cut enormous holes in this country’s safety net and is set to put already vulnerable people at risk of poverty, homelessness and deep disadvantage.

“The biggest impacts in this budget will be felt by the people who are least equipped to deal with further challenges,” warned Ms Barham, the Greens NSW spokesperson for Ageing, Disability Services, Aboriginal Affairs, Housing, and Family and Community Services.

Ms Barham’s call comes ahead of Sunday’s meeting of state and territory government leaders in Sydney to discuss how they will deal with cuts to Commonwealth funding.

“The cost-shifting in health and education are obvious concerns for the state and territory governments, including NSW. But the cuts and changes to programs that support younger people, older people, people with disabilities, Aboriginal communities, the homeless and those at risk of homelessness will see the state government faced with increasing numbers of people in crisis,” said Ms Barham.

“Changes to pension eligibility and indexation will push people deeper into poverty. Removal of housing investment and support will drive people further into housing stress. The withdrawal of funding to Aboriginal services and programs will widen the gap. This is a budget that promotes inequality, and the unfair burden will fall on those who can least withstand it,” Ms Barham said.

“Instead of providing people with support and opportunity, this Budget is going to leave vulnerable people under greater pressure to overcome the challenges they face, while they receive far less assistance and support.

“The Premier needs to make the case that investment in that support is crucial to securing people’s wellbeing and preventing them from suffering harm,” Ms Barham concluded.

Adjournment speech on the Federal Budget from the NSW Legislative Council, 14 May 2014:

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

The Greens NSW Parliamentary update on Disability Services

Check out this report from Jan for a round-up of Parliamentary activity in the Disability Services portfolio. It provides an update relating to Disability Services, including the NDIS and the recent enabling legislation. It also includes Parliamentary questions regarding some of the concerns regarding the Hunter trial / launch and the implementation of the NDIS, including the transfer of assets and staff to the NGO sector.

An open letter to Samantha Connor, disability advocate

Dear Samantha,

I appreciate your concern about the rights and wellbeing of people with disabilities that has prompted you to write this open letter.

The Greens NSW support the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including the rights of persons with disabilities to equality of participation in all aspects of life, including through participation in the community and access to housing. At the moment the principles in our policy on disabilities include a number of statements about people’s rights and the need to remove barriers to inclusion; however our policies are currently under review and we are working to include even stronger recognition of the importance of these rights. Large residential centres (LRCs), as they are called now, are inconsistent with those rights. As the 2010 Ombudsman’s report that you mentioned in your letter states, they are incompatible with our commitment to the rights of people with disabilities, despite any improvements that have been made over past conditions.

Having made clear that position, I note that the issues regarding the Stockton Centre and the forum to be held in Newcastle have been complicated by the fact that there are several different changes involved, and it is important to separate them out. Along with the closure of LRCs, at the moment the Stockton Centre is affected by the move to a person-centred service model under the NDIS, as well as the NSW Government’s plan to transfer assets and services to the private sector and to no longer deliver government-run services.

The decision to close LRCs through a process of devolution and/or partial redevelopment was first announced in 1998 and has been a commitment of successive NSW Governments, but it is only recently that an announcement was made about the Stockton Centre closure and discussions with residents and families have only just begun. This has prompted concern among some of the residents and their families – as well as staff and members of the community – about what the announced changes mean, what choices and future living arrangements the residents will have access to, and how the current uncertainty will be resolved. As a Member of Parliament I have attempted to listen and respect these concerns and work to gain clarity from the Government.

I have visited the Stockton Centre and met with families who are concerned about the process and wish to remain in place. We are attempting to ensure that as families engage in the assessment and planning process that their choices – including in some cases the wish to remain at Stockton – will be respected while ensuring they have access to all necessary and appropriate services. The Minister has provided assurances that there will be some redevelopment on the site to develop appropriate accommodation for those who wish to remain in place, and we will continue to ask questions and seek further information to ensure that this process produces the right results for everyone. We have also heard concerns about the role that some services (e.g., dental care) provided at the Centre to the broader community and are attempting to seek clarification about the continuity of those services.

Unfortunately the issue of moving from LRCs to appropriate, individually-chosen housing models has become confused with some other issues where there are reasons for concern. Because these centres are within the area for the Hunter launch (or trial) of the NDIS, this process is taking place at the same time as questions are being raised about the adequacy of the funding model. Also, the NSW Government last year passed legislation that allows it to transfer assets and personnel to the private sector, and by 2018 there will be no state-delivered disability services. There are a range of industrial relations and workforce issues involved in this, and we are again working to ensure that the concerns of those who are affected will be addressed. My office is also raising questions about how the Government will address issues such as services that the non-government sector might be unable or unwilling to provide, such as in regional areas, and whether a workforce strategy is in place to meet the sector’s future demand.

I hope that this message clarifies our position and that the Greens are committed to respecting the rights of people with disabilities and ensuring the best outcomes in accommodation and services for all people with disabilities. I will include some links below to questions I have asked in the Parliament as part of this process of seeking to ensure that the processes taking place are being monitored and producing the best possible outcomes.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any further issues you would like to discuss.

Regards,
Jan Barham, the Greens NSW spokesperson on Disability Services

See also Senator Rachel Siewert’s open letter.

More Jobs for People with a Disability

The NSW Greens spokesperson on Disability, Jan Barham is encouraging employers to provide jobs to people with a disability.

“The New South Wales Government introduced legislation that supports employers and people with a disability in the workforce. I have written to all Chambers of Commerce in NSW to advise them of the funding that is available. I look forward to an increase in opportunities created,” said Jan Barham.

“There are well over 300,000 people with a disability in NSW of a working age who are not in the labour force and 260 614 receiving the Disability Support Pension, with only 8.1% of those reporting earnings. Many of these people want the opportunity to participate in the workforce and more should be done to assist them,” Jan Barham said.

Australia currently ranks 21 out of 29 OECD countries for employment levels of people with a disability and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2009 had an employment participation rate of 54%, much lower than the general population of 83%.

Ms Barham noted that a recent report by Deloitte Access Economics found that closing the gap between labour market participation rates and unemployment rates for people with and without a disability by one third would result in a cumulative $43 billion increase in Australia’s GDP over the next decade.

“It’s of great concern that a Deloitte Access Economics report found that people with disabilities who are excluded from the workforce have lower standards of living and less financial control,” said Jan Barham.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

NSW Payroll Tax Rebate Scheme – Disability Employment

Employment Assistance Fund

The Deloitte Access Economics Report

NSW Upper House calls for Taxi Transport Subsidy to increase

Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson for Disability Services, has welcomed the NSW Legislative Council’s call for the NSW Government to increase funding for the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme.

“The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme has been capped at $30 per fare for 14 years now. A 2010 Parliamentary inquiry recommended increasing the cap to $50, and the social service sector were disappointed that an increase wasn’t included in last week’s Budget,” Ms Barham said.

“This call from the Upper House to increase the subsidy gives a welcome boost to the campaign to assist people with disabilities to have affordable transport.”

The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme (TTSS) assists people with disabilities with the cost of taxi transport. It covers 50% of the taxi fare up to a maximum subsidy of $30 per fare.

“The limited accessibility of public transport in many areas means taxi transport is often the only option for people with disabilities to get around. The subsidy cuts out as soon as a fare reaches $60, which means that passengers end up bearing the rest of the costs above this level. Some disability organisations have been calling for the cap to be doubled.

“NCOSS has estimated that lifting the cap by $20 would only cost $9 million per year, increasing the scheme’s budget by about one-third. Now that the Parliament has backed this motion, I hope the Government will find those funds to enhance the everyday lives of people with disabilities.

“We’re a long way behind some other states, but this is a promising sign of progress,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

BACKGROUND

Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme expenditure:
2012/13 revised: $27.4 million
2013/14 forecast: $29.4 million
Source: NCOSS Budget Briefing

Additional cost of increasing maximum subsidy to $50 per trip:
Estimated $9 million annually (assumes 10% of trips exceed the current cap)
Source: NCOSS Pre-Budget Submission

Jan Barham motion; notice given 26 March 2013:

1. That this House notes that the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme’s (TTSS) current maximum subsidy level of $30 has been in place since 1999, meaning that it has gone 14 years without an increase.
2. That this House acknowledges that the 2010 Select Committee Inquiry into the NSW Taxi Industry reported:
(a) Recommendation 35: ‘That NSW Transport and Infrastructure increase the value of the subsidy provided by the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme to half the total fare, up to a maximum value of $50.00 per fare.’ A $20 increase on the current subsidy, and
(b) Recommendation 36: ‘That the Premier request the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal to consider the value of the subsidy provided under the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme as part of its annual review of taxi fares.’
3. That this House notes the Government responses at the time to the above recommendations were:
(a) Recommendation 35: ‘Transport NSW will review and evaluate the current Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme subsidy cap,’ and
(b) Recommendation 36: ‘Transport NSW will review and evaluate options for the future adjustment of the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme subsidy cap.’
4. That this House also acknowledges Victoria’s Multi Purpose Taxi Program’s 2011-12 budget of $51 million is almost double New South Wales’ TTSS 2011-12 budget of $26 million.
5. That this House notes with concern that a recent survey of TTSS users by the Northern Rivers Social Development Council and supported by the Physical Disability Council of NSW, NCOSS, and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia showed that:
(a) 32% of respondents said that taxis were their only mode of transport,
(b) 54.7% of respondents received the Disability Support Pension, 15.1% were in part-time employment and 12.3% were in full-time employment, and
(c) of those people receiving the Disability Support Pension, almost half (47.5%) spent between 11 and 30% of their income on taxis, and that this percentage was higher for those in part-time employment (50%) and slightly lower for those in full-time employment (35.7%).
6. That this House notes that:
(a) Victoria’s Multi Purpose Taxi Program’s 2011-12 budget of $51 million is almost double NSW’s TTSS 2011-12 budget of $26 million,
(b) in 2008, Victoria increased its Multipurpose Taxi Program subsidy from $30 to $60, an amount that it is double the current New South Wales subsidy, and
(c) NCOSS’s Pre-Budget Submission recommends the NSW Government ‘Review the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme to ensure affordable access for participants, and increase the subsidy cap from $30 to $50.’
7. That this House acknowledges:
(a) the $30 TTSS subsidy is inadequate today and has not kept pace with New South Wales’ rising costs of living, and
(b) the subsidy does not meet the needs of many people with a disability travelling throughout major metropolitan and regional on our taxi networks.
8. That this House calls on the Government to increase the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme.

Push to improve Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme will continue

Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson for Disability Services, today issued a renewed call for the NSW Government to increase funding for the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme.

“The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme (TTSS) assists people with disabilities with the cost of taxi fares, which is essential in many regional and suburban areas where public transport isn’t accessible. It covers half of the taxi fare but this is capped at $30 per trip, which means that the assistance cuts out as soon as a fare goes over $60,” Ms Barham said.

“The maximum subsidy hasn’t changed since 1999, so it hasn’t kept pace with 14 years of rising taxi fares. Back in 2010 a Parliamentary inquiry into the taxi industry recommended increasing the cap to $50, and then having it independently reviewed each year.

“But last Tuesday’s Budget ignored the issue, despite strong lobbying from the disability sector and a motion I had put before the parliament in March.”

“This isn’t a big-ticket item in the Budget. The scheme cost $27.4 million for the current financial year and they’ve only allowed an extra $2 million for 2013/14.

“A little extra from the state budget could go a long way in helping people with disabilities to get on with their daily lives. The NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS) estimated that increasing the cap to $50 would only need another $9 million added to the scheme.”

Ms Barham confirmed she would renew her call for Parliament to support enhancing the scheme.

“My motion is still on the books and I will bring it up again in our last sitting week before Parliament rises for the winter. We’ve fallen way behind some other states in taxi fare assistance, and this is something the Government should find the funding to address.”

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

BACKGROUND

Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme expenditure:
2012/13 revised: $27.4 million
2013/14 forecast: $29.4 million
Source: NCOSS Budget Briefing

Additional cost of increasing maximum subsidy to $50 per trip:
Estimated $9 million annually (assumes 10% of trips exceed the current cap)
Source: NCOSS Pre-Budget Submission

Jan Barham motion; notice given 26 March 2013:

1. That this House notes that the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme’s (TTSS) current maximum subsidy level of $30 has been in place since 1999, meaning that it has gone 14 years without an increase.
2. That this House acknowledges that the 2010 Select Committee Inquiry into the NSW Taxi Industry reported:
(a) Recommendation 35: ‘That NSW Transport and Infrastructure increase the value of the subsidy provided by the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme to half the total fare, up to a maximum value of $50.00 per fare.’ A $20 increase on the current subsidy, and
(b) Recommendation 36: ‘That the Premier request the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal to consider the value of the subsidy provided under the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme as part of its annual review of taxi fares.’
3. That this House notes the Government responses at the time to the above recommendations were:
(a) Recommendation 35: ‘Transport NSW will review and evaluate the current Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme subsidy cap,’ and
(b) Recommendation 36: ‘Transport NSW will review and evaluate options for the future adjustment of the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme subsidy cap.’
4. That this House also acknowledges Victoria’s Multi Purpose Taxi Program’s 2011-12 budget of $51 million is almost double New South Wales’ TTSS 2011-12 budget of $26 million.
5. That this House notes with concern that a recent survey of TTSS users by the Northern Rivers Social Development Council and supported by the Physical Disability Council of NSW, NCOSS, and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia showed that:
(a) 32% of respondents said that taxis were their only mode of transport,
(b) 54.7% of respondents received the Disability Support Pension, 15.1% were in part-time employment and 12.3% were in full-time employment, and
(c) of those people receiving the Disability Support Pension, almost half (47.5%) spent between 11 and 30% of their income on taxis, and that this percentage was higher for those in part-time employment (50%) and slightly lower for those in full-time employment (35.7%).
6. That this House notes that:
(a) Victoria’s Multi Purpose Taxi Program’s 2011-12 budget of $51 million is almost double NSW’s TTSS 2011-12 budget of $26 million,
(b) in 2008, Victoria increased its Multipurpose Taxi Program subsidy from $30 to $60, an amount that it is double the current New South Wales subsidy, and
(c) NCOSS’s Pre-Budget Submission recommends the NSW Government ‘Review the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme to ensure affordable access for participants, and increase the subsidy cap from $30 to $50.’
7. That this House acknowledges:
(a) the $30 TTSS subsidy is inadequate today and has not kept pace with New South Wales’ rising costs of living, and
(b) the subsidy does not meet the needs of many people with a disability travelling throughout major metropolitan and regional on our taxi networks.
8. That this House calls on the Government to increase the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme.

End the Rorting of Disability Parking Permits

Jan Barham, Greens MP and Disability spokesperson, is calling on the NSW Government to release its report on the review of the Mobility Parking Scheme which was due out late last year.

“The disability sector is keen to see action from Government to ensure Mobility Parking Permits only go to those individuals with a disability who genuinely need it. Many people have been concerned about the levels of abuse in the scheme and a question in Parliament has requested an update,” Ms Barham said.

In 2012, an independent advisory committee was established to review the Mobility Parking Scheme in New South Wales. For a number of years the scheme, which allows people with mobility restrictions to park for extended periods in time restricted parking spaces, has suffered from abuse.

“The review of the Mobility Parking Scheme will define the tightening of the eligibility criteria and advance the harmonisation of state and territory disability parking schemes into a single Australian Disability Parking Scheme (ADPS). Improving the scheme would allow for international recognition of the scheme and allow Australians who hold a permit to use it when travelling overseas.”

Ms Barham noted that there had been over 60,000 revoked permits recorded by the RTA/RMS and that in 2010–11, there were 728 infringements issued. Some past reports have estimated that one in three permits displayed in ticket/meter and time-limited areas for long periods of time are being used unlawfully.

“We know some people have been flouting the rules but there has also been inadequate enforcement. Disability parking fines in NSW are the highest in the country but most offences are committed by persons other than the permit holder, whether by other family members or from stolen permits,” Ms Barham said.

“The Government needs to release this report and explain how it will reform disability parking to support those who genuinely need it and stamp out the problems and abuse.”

Improving the Mobility Parking Scheme

The NSW Government is currently conducting a review of the Mobility Parking Scheme. It’s generally acknowledged that the current system could be improved and The Greens support measures to ensure the scheme is fair and robust. The review is also part of moves towards a national scheme that will provide certainty and clarity to users across all States. A discussion paper was released in May and Jan has provided a submission in response. Please find below a copy of both documents.

Jan BARHAM submission – Mobility Parking Scheme Review July 2012

MPS Discussion Paper

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