The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has welcomed funding in today’s ACT Budget for housing, health and the ACT community sector but said more is needed to support Canberrans struggling as the cost of living skyrockets.
The Budget, described by Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr MLA as “delivering for Canberrans now and into the future”, included previously announced measures of $57.2m for public housing maintenance, $30m for additional public housing, $37.5m for mental health services, and $7.2m for continuing specialist homelessness services.
ACTCOSS also welcomed a previously announced $13m investment in additional supports for alcohol and other drug treatment services in the Territory.
Other key budget measures welcomed by ACTCOSS include:
- $3.059m for legal assistance for vulnerable members of the community including continuation of funding for services established during COVID-19
- Investments in the health sector, including $4.6m for making medical and surgical abortions more affordable; and $12.1m for public maternity services, including for scoping for a new perinatal mental health wellbeing facility
- $3.7m over 4 years for implementing the Capital of Equality LGBTIQ+ Strategy; and $2.5m to support Canberrans born with variations in sex characteristics
- Funding over four years to cover the community sector’s additional 4.43% indexation with a new methodology to reflect the Fair Work Commission Annual Wage Review.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “This budget includes much-needed investment in housing and will ensure the continuation of services put in place during COVID-19 which are still desperately needed. It will enable the community sector to keep its head just above water in the face of growing disadvantage and an increasing population."
ACTCOSS also welcomed an increase of the Utilities Concession by $50 to $800 following advocacy by ACTCOSS and other partners. However, Dr Campbell said that ACTCOSS had hoped to see additional support to tackle the cost of living pressures faced by Canberrans on low incomes including a major review of the amount and targeting of financial concessions.
Dr Campbell continued: “The 2022-23 ACT Budget has delivered significant investment in the ACT public service infrastructure and workforce. The ACT Government must now ensure that the same support is provided to the ACT community sector to modernise and develop, for example, through major investment in community facilities.
“While a strong ACT public service is important, we need to ensure that a fairer share of resources is provided to front-line community services who are best placed to deliver support to the community,” Dr Campbell said.
Other gaps in today's budget included adequate and dedicated funding for the Government’s ACT Disability Strategy and Disability Health Strategy and a commitment to a Commission of Inquiry into the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system.
Dr Campbell also called on the ACT Government to do more to respond to the Counting the Costs report which highlighted the major underfunding of the ACT Community Sector.
“Investment in community organisations supports our local economy by delivering significant return on investment through improved social outcomes, jobs and spending in the local economy.
“We look forward to working with the ACT Government and building on this ACT Budget to ensure a fair and just community where all Canberrans are supported and included,” Dr Campbell said.
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.