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Advocacy was on the agenda when the COAG Disability Reform Council (DRC) met to discuss NDIS implementation last Friday.

The NSW disability sector has eagerly awaited news on funding for advocacy—at both state and federal levels. The Disability Reform Council Communique outlined that systemic advocacy would be funded outside of the NDIS. Targeted consultation between now and July 2015 will inform a review of key policy directions and principles in the National Disability Advocacy Framework to take account of the NDIS. At this stage, it is not clear how the report of this review, due in December 2015, will contribute to decisions about future funding of systemic advocacy.

It was agreed that some supports related to individual advocacy such as decision support, safeguards support and support to approach and interact with disability and mainstream services would be funded by the NDIS. The communique did not include a timeframe for this funding provision or provide detail about the scope of this funding. NCOSS believes that individual advocacy for people with disability who do not qualify for NDIS packages must continue to be funded.

The DRC also announced that a revised Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) Policy Framework will be released in June 2015. Revisions will respond to calls for greater clarification on the policy that were a recurring theme in recent consultations. Once amended, the ILC Policy Framework will inform the implementation of this important facet of the NDIS.

While these announcements provide some detail about next steps, there are still significant question marks over the issues of timing, sources and scope of funds.

Funding for organisations that provide independent advocacy, representation and independent information to people with disability in NSW has been guaranteed until 30 June 2016. Work on releasing funding for systemic advocacy, information, linkages and capacity building and individual advocacy will need to begin apace to ensure continuity of services for people with disability.

Advocacy is always important. It is the canary in the mine, alerting people to wrong-doing, linking people with options and highlighting improvements that are needed so systems and services can deliver the intended results for people with disability.

With so much reform and innovation in disability right now advocacy is crucial and advocates are important partners in change management.

Many systems, such as the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Framework will be largely untested when introduced and systemic advocates can work with a range of organisation s to ensure the results on the ground align with its objectives.

Systemic advocacy creates linkages between somewhat disparate processes using intelligence from the sector and consumers (set within a policy context) to encourage systems to work holistically—not just to deliver services to people with a disability but to encourage inclusive communities and limit barriers to participation everywhere.

With the implementation of the NDIS and the introduction of the Disability Inclusion Act 2014 (NSW) we are seeing major responses from our Governments.

NCOSS supports further investigation to ensure funding for advocacy is effectively targeted in this period of reform and innovation. Concurrently, NCOSS believes the NSW Government should commit to ongoing funding to provide certainty for organisations that provide independent advocacy, information and representation to people with disability until concrete options to fund these services are offered. This will give people with disability a chance to understand and navigate changes with those they know and trust and NSW will retain a depth of local knowledge that can only strengthen the way forward.