Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (A4), the national peak body for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is appealing to Scott Morrison MP, the Minister for Social Services not to turn his back on people with autism.
The government recently cut funding to ten disability peak bodies including Blind Citizens Australia, Deaf Australia, Physical Disability Australia and National Council on Intellectual Disability. At the same time, the government also refused to fund a proposal to create a disability consortium covering both funded and unfunded disability specific peaks.
This is in spite of the fact that the number of people with autism is growing rapidly; the Australian Bureau of Stastics (ABS) says it grew 79% from 2009 to 2012. ABS reports also show that the number of Australians with autism grew from just 13,200 in 1998 to 115,400 in 2012. People with autism are also more likely to need formal disability supports. Data from the National Disability Insurance Agency shows that participants with autism are the biggest distinct disability group. The data shows that people with ID are the biggest group within the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
“Clearly, Government officials are faced with an enormous challenge in responding appropriately to autism; it is obvious that an autism specific peak body is needed to help meet these challenges in a time of great change.
The Government has never funded a peak consumer advocacy body for autism. It has now decided not to fund the consortium that included autism when it cut funding for disability peak bodies just before Christmas. There is little prospect for effective policy without accurate information relating to autism”, Mr Buckley said.
“The Government's refusal to fund AFDO's consortium approach ensures advocacy for people living with autism remains unfunded. People with autism are often less likely than many other people with disability to complete schooling, find a job and participate in their communities. They need specialist funded support to work towards positive social change.” said Bob Buckley, Convenor of A4.
The impact of not funding these organisations, including the national peak body for autism diminishes the voice of people with disability. The Government’s decision will lead to cuts to essential supports to 200,000 people with disability from March 2015, with $1.5 million stripped from ten organisations run by people with disability. Organisations who will be forced to shut their doors or significantly reduce services including Blind Citizens Australia, Brain Injury Australia and Down Syndrome Australia.
Historically, people living with autism have been excluded from collective disability advocacy and from advocacy/peak-body funding at a national level.
Contact: Bob Buckley