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Catholic Welfare queries missing disability dollars

Catholic Welfare Australia is worried that some jurisdictions have reported spending less on disability services than was promised under the recent bilateral funding agreement.

In the case of NSW, the Australian Institute for Health & Welfare (AIHW) indicates that there was a discrepancy in reported expenditure between 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 of some $39m. The expenditure in 1999-2000 was $660m and in 2000-2001 it was $731m. Yet NSW claims to have spent $110m of the new unmet need funding in the same period.

The revelations are contained in the Institute's report "Unmet needs for disability services", which was released last month. Catholic Welfare Australia yesterday issued a statement commending AIHW for the report.

The statement challenged NSW Premier Bob Carr to say where the funding has gone.

"This must mean there were cuts to other areas of the disability budget during a period when levels of unmet need are rising and begs questioning the NSW State Government as to where this funding has gone. Where has the funding gone Mr Carr?"

The AIHW report shows that the recent "unmet need" funding has been effective in putting some extra services on the ground. It still paints a rather bleak picture of the Disability Services sector. AIHW's conservative estimate is that across Australia there is a desperate need for additional places in the Sector including 12,500 extra accommodation and respite places, 8200 extra Community Access places and 5,400 extra employment places.

The Catholic Welfare statement said that in recent years, Disability Services "have taken a back seat in debates about Government priorities for funding". It says carers and advocates are "getting tired of fighting for recognition and funding".

Catholic Welfare is urging Governments, particularly the State and Territory Governments, to take the findings of the AIHW report into consideration when renegotiating the Commonwealth, State and Territories Disability Agreement and develop a just system of addressing the needs of people with disabilities in a planned and equitable manner.

Catholic Welfare Australia
Australian Institiute for Health & Welfare

Catholic Welfare Australia

16 Aug 2002