National disability groups are calling on Federal Senators to block a Bill that will reduce transport support for people with disability.
The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Transition Mobility Allowance to the National Disability Insurance Scheme) Bill 2016, currently before the Senate, will restrict access to essential transport funding to only those eligible for the NDIS. The Bill has been to the Senate Community Affairs Committee, where people with disability gave extensive evidence about the problems with the legislation, which was not accepted by the Government. This Bill will impact the hundreds of thousands of people with disability who will not have access to the NDIS, including people over 65.
“People with disability face significant barriers to accessing transport which can limit their ability to work, participate in education or other community and economic activities. The current Mobility Allowance is already inadequate to cover the full cost of transport for many people – this Bill will make things much harder,” says Ms Samantha French, Advocacy Projects Manager: Employment and Social Inclusion, People with Disability Australia.
“The labour force participation rate for people with disability is 53 per cent, which is far lower than for the remainder of the population at 83 per cent. Despite all the talk of jobs at this year’s election, it seems this is only the case if you can get yourself to and from work without support,” says Ms Karen Knight, General Manager for Advocacy and Engagement, Vision Australia.
“Many people with disability find that a lack of accessible public transport can be a major barrier to employment. The Mobility Allowances goes some way to address the additional expense of private transport to work for many people with disability which can often result in them actually being worse off financially,” said Ms French.
Vision Australia, the leading national provider of blindness and low vision services, has argued that taxis are a non-optional cost of blindness and that any cuts to the Mobility Allowance will impact the financial ability of the blindness and low vision community to seek and retain employment and volunteering opportunities.
“Many people from our community use personal transport providers when searching for a job or a volunteering position, and when they have secured a position. We don’t want to see any cuts to this funding as it will jeopardise our community’s ability to access meaningful employment and volunteering opportunities, at a time, when they are already underrepresented in the workforce,” said Ms Knight.
PWDA and Vision Australia believe that the Mobility Allowance also needs to stay as part of the income support system, because it is a key part of the Disability Employment Framework for those people with disability who are not in the NDIS.
“PWDA has had feedback from our members who are very concerned about transport costs. This Bill will make transport for people with disability harder to access and needs to be opposed in the Senate,” said Ms French.