Unpacking the 2024-25 Victorian State Budget – what it means for Victorians with disabilities

The Victorian 2024-25 State budget was delivered on Tuesday 7th May 2024. The theme for this year’s state budget was around Helping Families– making sensible decisions to relieve the cost of living pressures that Victorians are facing right now.

This means that it was a tight budget, and there were constraints across all state systems- including disability.

DARU worked closely with VCOSS on the State budget analysis this year, particularly in unpacking what this means for Victorians with disabilities. Please see below an excerpt from the VCOSS State Budget Analysis (for full details, see https://vcoss.org.au/vicbudget/analysis/) in relation to Victorians with Disabilities:

Significant initiatives

Regulation and oversight

  • Disability and Social Services Regulation
    $21.6m in 2024-25 ($39.3m/4 yrs) to support the new independent Social Services Regulator overseeing the social services sector, ensuring services are delivered safely and consistently with the Social Service Standards.
    Funding is continued for the Victorian Disability Worker Commission to perform its statutory functions, including regulatory oversight of disability workers and addressing breaches of the Disability Worker Code of Conduct. Funding is also provided for the functions of the Disability Services Commissioner, which resolves complaints about non-NDIS disability service providers in Victoria.
  • Supporting and safeguarding vulnerable Victorians
    $5.2m in 2024-25 ($15.6m/3 yrs) to continue the Office of the Public Advocate’s (OPA) guardianship, investigation and Independent Third Person programs to support the OPA to promote and safeguard the human rights and interests of Victorians with disability.

Advocacy, Capacity Building, and Support Services

  • Continuing support for Victorians with disability
    $24.0m in 24-25 for a range of supports for people with disability including coordination of mainstream supports for people with complex disability needs:
  • Victorian Disability Advocacy program
    • Supporting Victorians with disability ineligible for the NDIS
    • Autism assessment grants
    • Family Services Specialist Disability Practitioner program
    • Steps to Confident Parenting program
    • Parenting Children with Complex Disability program
    • Supporting children with complex disability and their families to access mainstream supports.
  • Supports for people with disability outside of the NDIS
    $23.1m in 2024-25 for services for people with disability outside of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), including to support delivery of the Home and Community Care Program for Younger People, for people with disability who are not eligible for or who cannot have their needs fully met by the NDIS, and assessments for people seeking to have allied health supports included within their NDIS Plans.
  • Early Childhood Sector Supports and Regulation: Early childhood intervention services for non-permanent residents
    $2.9m in 2024-25 to deliver early childhood intervention services, such as inclusive education and therapy supports, to children with a disability or developmental delay who are not eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) due to their residency status.
  • Additional Support for Students with Disabilities: Students with Disabilities Transport Program
    $32.8m in 2024-25 to continue and expand transport assistance through the Students with Disabilities Transport Program, introducing up to six new services from 2025 to meet growth in demand, to support eligible students to travel to their government specialist school.
  • Additional Support for Students with Disabilities: Accessible Buildings Program
    $7.5m in 2024-25 ($15m/2 yrs) to improve access to school facilities for students with disability and additional needs. Facility modifications may include ramps and handrails, alterations to toilet and shower facilities and adjustments for students with vision or hearing impairments.

What’s good

  • The Victorian Government continues to invest in the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program, and the provision of a further 12 months of boost funding (on top of core funding) is a huge relief for disability advocacy organisations buckling under the weight of demand. This relief is tempered by the fact that it is a temporary reprieve – services are anxious that they will face an uncertain future again in one year’s time.

VCOSS’s pre-Budget submission highlighted that the Victorian Disability Advocacy Program needs ongoing funding that reflects service demand, unmet need for advocacy in the community, and the true cost of delivering advocacy services to participants who are presenting with increasingly complex needs.

The Disability Advocacy Resource Unit, auspiced by VCOSS, looks forward to the sector and the Office for Disability finalising a Disability Advocacy Outcomes Framework, as a critical piece of work to help strengthen future investment.

Disability advocates make Victoria more inclusive, healthier, resilient and safe for people with disabilities and the final reports of the Disability Royal Commission and the NDIS Review have both highlighted the important role of state disability advocacy programs – of which VDAP is an exemplar. This is a program that the Victorian Government can take great pride in.

  • VCOSS welcomes a continuation of funding for the Family Service Specialist Disability Practitioners and Children with Complex Disability Support Needs Program. These programs play a critical role in supporting around 1,075 families (including 2,150 children) to navigate complex service systems, access the NDIS, and promote the sustainability of care that prevents families from breaking down. We note they are identified in the Budget papers as part of the Victorian Government’s Early Intervention Investment Framework (EIIF). The EIIF is intended to support the service system to help more Victorians get effective early help before problems escalate. Putting this initiative in the EIIF sends a positive signal about the level of priority that the Victorian Government has accorded to these programs.
  • There is continued funding to support people with disability outside of the NDIS. This remains vitally important in the current complex reform environment, where we are waiting on governments to formally respond to the Disability Royal Commission and NDIS Review recommendations, and determine how foundational supports will be funded and delivered. As both systemic inquiries have found, there is significant work to do to ensure people with disabilities outside of the NDIS don’t fall through the cracks of universal services and other service systems. Future budgets will need to make sufficient provision. Similarly, funding for autism assessments is welcomed, however this also needs to be backed up with ongoing funding for any therapies that may be required after a diagnosis for non-NDIS participants.
  • The Budget makes provision for specialised support for young people with diagnosed disabilities in the youth justice system. We know young people with disabilities are highly vulnerable in these settings, so we welcome this support. But ultimately the Victorian Government needs to address the factors that drive young people with disabilities into the justice system in the first place. Future budgets should invest in upstream wellbeing measures co-designed with the children, young people and their families (see Justice analysis also re justice reinvestment).

What’s missing

  • The Disability Royal Commission and the NDIS Review have made recommendations that will impact the way that states and territories fund and deliver services for people with disabilities outside the NDIS. We appreciate that Australian governments are grappling with significant complexity. However, the decision to delay formal responses to these systemic inquiries has led to increasing anxiety in the community about future access to support, especially in the context of stretched public and community services. The slowing down of the Mental Health and Best Start Best Life reforms in this Budget has compounded those concerns.
  • In our past two pre-Budget submissions, VCOSS has called for the creation of a Supported Decision Making Service to support decision-making capacity for individuals with cognitive disabilities and respond to referrals from government departments, statutory agencies, and universal services (for example, courts, police, hospitals, education providers and child protection). Without dedicated funding for such services, people with cognitive disabilities who can’t rely on friends or family to provide ‘informal support’ are left at risk of being unable to express their free will and unable to navigate complex systems like healthcare, justice and housing.  We encourage the Victorian Government to engage in a co-design process with potential beneficiaries of this model of support and fund it as an EIIF initiative in the 2025-26 Budget.
Monday 13th May, 2024

Related Posts