Have your say about the future of national disability policy

Laura Davy (@LauraKDavy) from the Public Service Research Group, UNSW Canberra, summarises the findings of a review into the implementation of the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 and urges readers to contribute to the consultation process for a new national disability policy framework which will begin next month.

There is a lot happening in the disability policy space at the moment. Last month the Productivity Commission released its review of the National Disability Agreement. People with disability and advocates have welcomed the government’s announcement of a Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (consultations to develop the draft terms of reference close today). The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) continues to appear frequently in news headlines, and disability policy may be emerging as one of the key issues for the upcoming federal election, with a spate of press releases issued by the government over the last few weeks. 

But with all this news to digest and debate to contribute to, don’t overlook last week’s important announcement: public consultations about the future of national disability policy will begin next month.

Cover page of the current National Disability Strategy, 2010-2020

Cover page of the current National Disability Strategy, 2010-2020

The National Disability Strategy 2010-2020, Australia’s current overarching policy statement on disability, will expire at the end of next year. Consultations on national disability policy beyond 2020 will be held between mid-April and June this year, and will include an open public survey (from mid-April), face-to-face community workshops in every state and territory (from 29 April) and an online forum (from mid-May).

People with disability, representative organisations and other civil society organisations and allies identified several limitations to the current Strategy in submissions to the Senate inquiry held in 2017. These included under-resourcing, a lack of concrete, measurable goals, and lack of clarity about the roles and responsibilities of state and territory governments in implementing the Strategy.

These issues were reiterated by the independent review of the Strategy’s implementation conducted by researchers from the Social Policy Research Centre, which was released by the government last week. 

The review found that while the content and vision of the Strategy are still highly relevant, it has fallen short of the mark in its implementation. The NDIS, while an important action that falls within the Strategy, has ‘taken all the oxygen out of the room’, with limited policy attention placed on implementing other aspects of the Strategy.

Rosemary Kayess, one of the authors of the report and the Vice Chair of the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, made the following comments in a UNSW media release:

“The NDS tended to be quite piecemeal. There would be small pockets of good examples of policy working, but what was being achieved wasn’t strategic; it wasn't articulated to any broader plan of action… there needs to be a strong disability focus in mainstream policy initiatives across all portfolios.”

The report states that stronger central leadership of the Strategy, funding allocations to support its governance and coordination, and a stronger evidence base for measuring and reporting implementation progress are needed in order to implement the Strategy across all levels and domains of government. 

In addition, the review highlighted the importance of:

  • Facilitating the participation of people with disability at all levels of policy design and implementation 

  • Providing local government with resources and integrating their activities with measures at other levels of government 

  • Resourcing and supporting grassroots initiatives and facilitating opportunities for future partnerships with government and business to enhance the reach of these initiatives 

  • Linking localised initiatives to broader system changes by generating evidence of effectiveness and raising the profile of the Strategy in governments and the wider community. 

The report was written by Laura Davy, Karen Fisher, Ayah Wehbe, Christiane Purcal, Sally Robinson, Rosemary Kayess, and Danielle Santos. It is available, including in easy read format, from the Department of Social Services and SPRC websites. 

There is also a fact sheet available with information about how you can be involved in the consultation process and have your say about national disability policy beyond 2020.