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Concessions essential to cope with ACT costs of living

Media release, 10 April 2015

ACT government concessions are essential to ensuring that people experiencing disadvantage are able to afford fundamental necessities and should not be changed in the 2015-2016 ACT Budget. A new ACT Council of Social Service report tracking the cost of living in the ACT highlights why.

“Our Cost of Living Report finds that key costs of living are rising in the ACT. It also finds that cost of living pressures are increasing for some people on lower incomes faster than the average rate. For those on the lowest incomes whose discretionary spending is limited, these escalating costs can mean having to make difficult choices between basic needs such as housing, food and transport,” Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service stated.

2015 ACT Budget Forum for the Community Sector - 4 June

The ACT Budget will be announced on Tuesday 2 June 2015. ACTCOSS will hold its ACT Budget Forum for the community sector on Thursday 4 June from 12.30pm to 2pm. ACTCOSS Director, Susan Helyar, will provide an overview of the 2015-16 Budget and outline its impact on the ACT community sector. The Chief Minister and Treasurer, Andrew Barr, will be addressing the forum.

Draft determination review for ActewAGL electricity prices 2014-19

SEE-Change and ACTCOSS have provided a joint submission to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) on the draft determination review for ActewAGL electricity prices 2014-19. This submission provides a brief analysis of the issues that should be taken into consideration by the AER in their review, including energy hardship in low income households, the need for infrastructure development, and ActewAGL as a major employer and economic contributor in the ACT.

Review of the Energy Efficiency Improvement Scheme

The Conservation Council ACT Region and ACTCOSS have provided a joint comment on the Energy Efficiency (Cost of Living) Improvement Act 2012.

We have a shared view that human contributions to climate change must be addressed while at the same time recognising energy needs, particularly for heating, cooling and lighting. Increased costs for energy will impact most on people with low or fixed incomes. The reduction of energy use through energy efficiency measures has the dual impacts of reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions along with reducing the costs associated with energy use. The attention given by the Act to priority (low-income) households is a welcome focus for the implementation of energy efficiency measures.

Social Inclusion and Equality are welcome new portfolios in ACT Cabinet

Media release, 21 January 2015

Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service, commented today on the announcement of the new portfolio arrangements for Ministers released by Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

"I welcome the new Cabinet and congratulate Yvette Berry MLA on her Ministerial appointment. ACTCOSS looks forward to working with Minister Berry whose portfolio responsibilities, which include Housing, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Community Services, Multicultural Affairs, Women, and Social Inclusion and Equality, cover much of the core business of ACTCOSS – advocating for policy, programs and services that promote justice, equality, reconciliation and social inclusion."

Collective community sector call for Government halt to 'devastating' funding cuts

COSS media release, 31 December 2014

ACOSS and state and territory Councils of Social Service have issued a collective New Year's Resolution for the Federal Government to stop devastating funding cuts to community organisations all over the country.

Speaking today, ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said: 'We are determined to convince the Federal Government to reverse its decision to cut funding from community organisations around the country as well as the key national community peak bodies in the housing, homelessness, disability areas, two days before Christmas."

"It is clear that the consequences of these cuts have not been considered by the new Minister responsible, and all our early signs from community people around the country tells us the impacts on vulnerable communities will be devastating."

80% of community services can't meet demand

Media release, 8 December 2014

A national report released by the Australian Council of Social Service today provides alarming evidence that community services are not able to meet demand for support because of a lack of resources, and that quality of life is decreasing for some of the most disadvantaged people in our community.

Commenting on this report today, Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service said: “This means people in Canberra who are eligible for support are being turned away – most often from legal and housing services.

ACTCOSS Budget Priorities 2015-16: ACT Budget Submission

ACTCOSS has published our submission to the ACT Budget for 2015-16. Our Budget Submission includes key asks around affordable housing and homelessness that community sector organisations have come together to promote. We collectively believe on-going investment will underpin and facilitate genuinely better and more sustainable outcomes for disadvantaged Canberrans in the areas Government has identified as priorities for action in its Budget Strategy.

Our members have also identified three areas of urgent need that we advise the Government to invest in as a matter of priority: Accessible services and community infrastructure; prevention, early intervention and targeted assistance; and reorienting and prioritising service delivery in the context of whole-of-community roll out of the NDIS.

ACT Labour Market Trends Help Explain Rates of Poverty in the ACT: Report

Joint media release with Women's Centre for Health Matters, 14 October 2014

The ACT Council of Social Service and Women's Centre for Health Matters released data today showing that outside of public sector employment, industries with growing employment opportunities that do not require degree-level qualifications offer low wage, relatively high rates of part-time work, suggesting many workers struggle to earn enough to cover their costs of living.

Commenting on release of the report, Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Service said, "Our community knows that a full-time job is the best way to ensure protection from poverty. But in some industries, notably those where women are significantly over-represented, workers have comparatively low (full-time) wages and part-time employment is high."

Read the entire media release: Read the 6 page overview document: Read the full data report:

Human Services Blueprint

The ACT Community Sector has worked with the ACT Government to design and implement a new approach to community, health, justice and education services so they respond better to community expectations and needs - by being person-focused, strengths-based and focused on achieving positive outcomes. This work has led to adoption of a Human Services Blueprint by the ACT Government and a number of Better Services Initiatives were funded in the 2014-15 ACT Budget.

ACTCOSS has contributed to developing the Human Services Blueprint and implementing the Better Services Initiatives because we believe it has the potential to deliver real improvements in the design, delivery and resourcing of services so they make a positive difference to people in Canberra, especially those who are living with poverty and disadvantage, or who are facing a vulnerable time in their life. Three principles underpin this work: You can find out more about this work and ways to get involved in decisions about how the Human Services Blueprint is implemented.

Presentation available: Internet connectivity among people experiencing poverty and deprivation

During Anti-Poverty Week this year ACTCOSS facilitated a conversation about the interactions between poverty, disadvantage, and digital technology, often referred to as the 'digital divide': the space between those who have access to digital technologies and those who are excluded from accessing digital technology because of inability to cover costs.

Speaker Dr Sarah Wise (University of Melbourne and Berry Street Victoria) has kindly provided her presentation from the event for download.

ACTCOSS submission: Review of the Report on National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness

ACTCOSS provided comment to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts Inquiry into the ACT Auditor General’s Report No.4 of 2013: National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH). The review had two clear objectives to identify that the ACT government is meeting its obligations, and that the NPAH is making a difference for homeless persons.

ACTCOSS noted, along with other organisations that made submissions, that the four recommendations made by the audit report focused primarily on financial and contract management and did not adequately consider whether NPAH is making a difference for people who are homeless in the ACT, or reflect measures to improve the quality or impact of services funded under NPAH.

ACTCOSS called for the ACT Government to work with people who access services and organisations that provide services to develop an agreed strategy, and core priorities, to meet continuing need for housing and homelessness support services if the ACT loses Commonwealth NPAH funding in June 2015.

Fact Sheet: Impact of changes to welfare for young people proposed in the Federal Budget 2014-15

Under proposed budget changes unemployed people under the age of 30 years will lose income support for six months of the year, from July 2015. It will affect people aged 18-29 who are not enrolled in education or training and who are not in work. It will also affect people in casual or part-time work who don’t earn enough to move off the Newstart Allowance.

This fact sheet outlines the impact of these measures on young people, emergency relief services, and the ACT economy. It also provides answers to some frequently asked questions.

Read the Fact Sheet: Impact of changes to welfare for young people proposed in the Federal Budget 2014-15 (Word docx 60KB).

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