The NSW Opposition has exposed that the Federal Government has not fulfilled its funding commitment to Ability Links NSW, as the disability support service prepares to close its doors.
Last week it was uncovered in NSW Budget Estimates that the Federal Coalition Government has only provided $8.5 million of a promised $28.5 million to the service, as the NSW Government tried to pass the buck on the service’s closure.
The Ability Links program was piloted in the Hunter region by the St Vincent de Paul Society in 2013 to assist people with disability to engage with their community. It was so successful that it was rolled out across the state. It now employs 400 people and helps tens of thousands of families.
Under questioning from Penny Sharpe MLC, Shadow Minister for Disability Inclusion, NSW Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward revealed the Federal funding shortfall, while continually refusing to admit that Ability Links NSW would shut its doors on October 31.
Mr Ward was asked repeatedly to confirm the service’s closure but would not. This is despite Ability Links’ Newcastle premises being listed on a commercial real estate website as available to lease from 15 November.
While two levels of government are happy to play their games with funding and accountability, tens of thousands of families are about to be abandoned.
The Minister needs to hold his Federal counterparts to account and fully fund this vital service and explain what he has done to ensure that they honour that commitment.
Quotes attributable to Penny Sharpe MLC, Shadow Minister for Disability Inclusion
"The closure of the successful Ability Links program is a blow to people with disability across NSW.
"This successful, award winning program is providing services that fill the gaps and deliver true social inclusion for people with disability in a way that other programs can't.
"It is a pity that the Minister in NSW is duck-shoving the problem to the Federal Government rather than ensuring this program is able to keep doing its excellent work."
Quotes attributable to Tim Crakanthorp, Member for Newcastle
“Tens of thousands of families are being let down through the closure of Ability Links. To now know that Federal Government has failed to meet their funding commitment is rubbing salt into the wound.
“The State Government is trying to fob off their responsibility, while the Federal Government has broken a promise; this treatment of some of our community’s most vulnerable is absolutely abhorrent.
“Inclusion and accessibility are fundamental rights for people with disabilities; closing a program that has done fantastic work in this sphere is a big step backwards.”