Mr LEE EVANS:
My question is directed to the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services. How is the Government delivering on its election commitment to empower people with disabilities by putting them at the centre of decision-making?
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE:
I thank the member for Heathcote for his question and acknowledge his personal commitment to disability services and as a member of this House. For too long the aspirations of persons with disabilities in the State have been curtailed by a number of impediments that have resulted from government and traditional servicing. For too long people have been dictated to in relation to the support service they will receive, by whom the service will be delivered, and when the service will be delivered. It is for those reasons that the O'Farrell Government has begun to work towards building a person-centred approach. Last week the O'Farrell Government announced a program worth $82 million, with Ability Links NSW, to establish 248 local area coordinators throughout the State.
The role of the coordinators will be to assist people with disabilities to plan for the future but, more importantly, to facilitate links that people with disabilities need to gain greater access to the community. For too long people with disabilities have lived in isolation and have not been able to achieve their hopes, their dreams or their aspirations because of impediments resulting from the manner in which the disability service system evolved. The 248 local area coordinators not only will provide assistance and links for people with a disability but also will ensure that the services are situated within communities to build greater community capacity. In other words, coordinators will be moving around in communities to assist organisations across communities to better cater for the needs of people who have disabilities.
Of the 248 local area coordinators, 27 will be dedicated to Aboriginal communities. Across the regions we have allocated 68 local area coordinators to the Metro South region, 51 local area coordinators to the Metro North region, 39 in the Hunter, 38 in the northern region, 30 in the western region, and 22 in the southern region. Local area coordinators are not bureaucrats. They are people who will be working in the community and who will work alongside people who have disabilities, their carers and their families. The new approach is specifically designed to link people with disabilities to vital services and support systems. This new approach moves beyond what we recognise as the traditional support system. For instance, if people want to take their child with a disability fishing, for argument's sake, they will need links to the community so that they can gain access to the local fishing club and be able to go fishing on a weekend.
What we are talking about here is making sure the aspirations of people with disabilities and their carers will be met. People who do not have disabilities take life for granted, but people who have disabilities forever are having to fight the system to be able to achieve a quality of life that the rest of us take for granted. It is time for that to change. The rollout of area coordinators is the first step towards building a person-centred approach. The O'Farrell Government has made it clear that by 1 July 2014 it will be leading the way across all State and Territory jurisdictions in self-directed support. The Government wants people to be able to make decisions without being curtailed by government or by a support system that is merely about funding programs. We can only achieve those goals by working alongside people, and that is why the Government is setting up coordinators.
Local area coordinators for people with disabilities will play a vital role in the future as we move to a person-centred approach and individualised funding. There is no doubt that after tenders close on 26 March, the service sector and non-government agencies will express a great deal of interest in participating in the rollout of local area coordinators. I am pleased to indicate to the House that the decision in relation to coordinators will be made by the middle of this year. However, most importantly we must reaffirm our commitment to assisting people with disabilities to achieve their aspirations by ensuring that impediments to success are removed. The O'Farrell Government is committed to local area coordinators because we believe that there is every hope and opportunity ahead for people with disabilities under a person-centred approach.