Fears of more abuse to disabled children if NSW Government scrap advocacy funding

Brigid Glanville

Disability groups fear there could be more unreported abuse of children in schools as the New South Wales Government plans to cut funding to advocacy groups.

The plans to cut disability advocacy funding from June 2018 come after ABC's 7.30 program revealed that in the last two years there were 246 reported incidents of abuse or neglect to disabled students in NSW schools.

In one case a child with autism was strapped to a restraining chair, and in another case kickboxing pads were used to push a child from room to room at a school.

Jim Simpson from the Council for Intellectual Disabilities said he was "appalled this is still happening in the 21st century".

"In the last 40 years we've known other ways to work with kids with autism and challenging behaviour," he said.

Lobby groups say that in NSW about 50 advocacy groups provide a vital service for these families and children.

Mr Simpson said parents were often scared to speak out and advocacy groups such as the Council for Intellectual Disability provided this service.

Two chairs with restraining belts Thomas Maker-North was strapped to in the classroom
PHOTO: A student with autism at a Taree school was strapped onto a chair. (Supplied: Georgina Maker-North)

 

"Parents in these situations are very understandably scared to rock the boat," he said.

"They're just scared about the reprisals that might occur on their kids if they rock the boat."

Under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), all Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care funding will be given to the Commonwealth after June 2018.

Advocacy groups say this means it is up to the states to fund them.

"The Federal Government has made it clear that they look to the states to fund advocacy," Mr Simpson said.

"In Victoria … there is no suggestion it's going to be reduced."

The State Opposition said if it wins the 2019 election it will restore the $13 million disability advocacy funding in NSW.

The Minister for Disability Services Ray Williams told the ABC that advocacy providers had received record funding to help prepare themselves and people with disability for the major reform.

"The NSW Government has provided $10.6 million over three years for advocacy providers until June 30, 2018 and $1.5 million in additional funding specifically to assist advocacy organisations transition to the NDIS," he said.

"Further, the NSW Government provided an additional $1.7 million to existing disability advocacy services to meet extra demand during the NDIS transition."