The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has welcomed investments in housing and the community sector announced in today’s ACT Budget as the ACT emerges from the COVID-19 health and economic crisis.
The Budget includes previously announced measures of $80m for improved maintenance of ACT public housing stock, $19m for the Growing and Renewing Public Housing Program and $8.6m for specialist homelessness services.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “While many of the measures revealed in today’s budget had already been foreshadowed, we welcome the additional support for vulnerable Canberrans.
In addition to the housing measures, other key budget measures welcomed by ACTCOSS include:
- Investments in mental health, alcohol and drug services and primary health care
- Ongoing funding to expand the Safe and Connected Youth Program
- Additional funding for frontline services supporting those impacted by domestic and family violence through an increase in the Family Safety Levy
- Funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples including the establishment of a Healing and Reconciliation Fund, support for ACT Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, an Aboriginal Business Support Package and a culturally appropriate suicide prevention program
- Support for targeted concessions and assistance measures including the expansion of the utilities concession, an increase in the Pensioner General Rates Rebate Cap and the continuation of the Utilities Hardship Fund
- Support for the JobTrainer program which will fund free training places for vocational students studying community sector qualifications
- Funding for a Patient Navigation Service to better coordinate care across the health system for people with chronic and complex conditions.
Dr Campbell said: “While additional investments in housing are welcome, this budget has still not explained how the Government will deliver its full promised commitment of 400 additional public dwellings and 600 additional affordable rental properties by the end of the Parliamentary Agreement.
“Building of public houses needs to be accelerated and more support must be provided to community housing providers if the Government is serious about meeting these targets.”
ACTCOSS also said that the community sector was concerned about the lack of ongoing funding for many services.
“While we welcome additional funding for 2021-22 for services including the community legal sector and the ACT’s Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Service, Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services, we need an ongoing commitment from Government. Organisations need to be able to provide certainty to staff and the people they support.
“Further, a number of issues have not been addressed by this budget. These include gaps in supports for older Canberrans, perinatal health services and community facilities. ACTCOSS is also disappointed that the budget did not include funding for the ACT Carers Strategy or a Disability Health Strategy.
“The Budget also fails to address ongoing calls from the community sector for an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples in the justice system,” Dr Campbell said.
ACTCOSS said that overall, the 2021-22 ACT Budget provided a basis for the shared work of Government and the community sector as the Territory recovers from the COVID-19 health and economic crisis.
Dr Campbell said: “Investment in community organisations also supports our local economy by delivering significant returns on investment through jobs and spending in the local economy.
“Further, the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that when the ACT Government works in partnership with the community sector, we are able to achieve positive outcomes for vulnerable Canberrans. We look forward to using this Budget as the starting point towards a more equitable and just ACT community.”
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.