Councils key to creating inclusive communities for people with disability

The NSW Government is working on creating more inclusive and accessible communities for people with disability, with local councils to play a central role.

The NSW Disability Inclusion Plan 2021-2025 was launched on November 19 by Alister Henskens, Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services.

The four-year plan builds on previous work of the government and provides the framework for it to work towards achieving an inclusive society.

The government will work with the community and various stakeholders, including people with disability, local councils, peak bodies, Disability Council NSW and the Department of Communities and Justice.

“Local councils play a central role in implementing the NSW Disability Inclusion Plan in local communities across NSW,” the plan said.

“Local councils are often the most immediate place of contact with government [for] people with disability, their carers and families.”

All local councils are required to have Disability Inclusion Action Plans (DIAPs) setting out their strategies for improving the inclusiveness of services provided to the community.

“Local councils play a central role in implementing the NSW Disability Inclusion Plan in local communities across NSW.”

Handbook for local councils

The NSW Government will work with local councils to help their communities to better prevent and respond to abuse.

The new interagency partnerships, or Collaboratives, established by the NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner will bring together people working with older people or adults with disability in local government with a good understand of local issues to assist their community.

The government will also develop an engagement program and provide a handbook for local councils to combat abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults with disability.

“The handbook will provide useful steps, information, data, resources and training for councils to develop or add to existing abuse prevention strategies,” the plan said.

Improving community attitudes

The plan will focus on four areas, including positive community attitudes and behaviours, creating liveable communities, supporting access to meaningful employment and improving access to mainstream services through systems and processes.

“The attitudes and behaviours of the general community towards people with disability can be the greatest barrier to full access and inclusion,” the plan said.

“Community attitudes can further be influenced by the intersection of the particular characteristics of a person with disability, such as gender, age, ethnicity, or the type of disability itself.”

Disability Council NSW will work with DCJ to hold forums with local government to develop more community awareness and Transport for NSW will consult people with disability to ensure their feedback is valued and acted upon to create a more inclusive transport system.

“Inclusiveness and accessibility for people with disability forms a crucial component of the assessment of the liveability of any community,” the plan said. 

“Local councils are often the most immediate place of contact with government [for] people with disability, their carers and families.”

Encouraging participation in community

To encourage participation of people with disability in all aspects of community life, government will ensure that its departmental buildings and services are accessible and inclusive for all people.

The NSW Government will progressively increase the availability and accessibility of public and private transport options for people with disability, including people living in regional and rural areas.

Meaningful employment

The third focus of the plan is on increasing the number of people with disability in meaningful employment.

“Employment rates for people with disability are significantly lower than those without disability across all sectors,” the plan said.

“Participation in meaningful employment is vital if people with disability are to attain economic security, retain a sense of purpose and engage effectively with others in our society.”

The NSW Public Service Commission is working with all government departments and agencies to implement the Premier’s Priority to ensure that 5.6 per cent of all government sector roles are held by people with disability by 2025.

“The handbook will provide useful steps, information, data, resources and training for councils to develop or add to existing abuse prevention strategies.”

Better access to services

The final focus of the plan is to ensure that people with disability have access to mainstream government services.

“A common issue for people with disability is the difficulty in navigating the systems and processes required to access the services and supports they need in the community,” the plan said. 

“These difficulties are the product of a number of barriers including a lack of accessible information, inflexible processes, and limited opportunities for feedback and input.”

Under the NSW Disability Inclusion Act 2014, NSW government bodies and local councils are required to report annually on the progress they have made on their DIAPs.

All reporting must be provided to the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services, who is required to table a report on the implementation of DIAPs across the NSW Government and local councils in the NSW Parliament.

The Plan is the second edition of the NSW Disability Inclusion Plan and builds on NSW Disability Inclusion Plan 2015-2019.

Projects delivered under the previous plan include accessible stations along Sydney’s Metro, lift upgrades at TAFE campuses and the Employable Me TV series, which promoted employment pathways for people with disability.

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