The ACT Council of Social Service says the ACT Budget for 2015/2016 recognises the need for social inclusion and equality to be at the centre of decision making and planning for the ACT community. However, the investments announced in this Budget do not fully address the gaps we know exist in our economy, our infrastructure and service systems.
Speaking immediately after the release of the Budget, Susan Helyar, Director of ACTCOSS, said, ‘We support the Government announcing a stimulus budget. With increasing unemployment, underemployment and difficulty in coping with the costs of living, a deficit budget is appropriate.
‘There is a significant investment in business development, especially in tourism and ICT. As these are relatively small employers in this city it remains to be seen that this investment will lead to a stronger labour market.
‘ACTCOSS values the investment in local infrastructure – footpaths, green spaces and local centre amenities are valuable as this enables people to access their local communities. We also value improving the quality and diversity of public housing, and the ongoing commitment to sustaining public housing in inner city areas in the north and south. But this measure won't grow the number of people who can access public housing, so we will be looking for substantial additional investment to increase affordable housing as an election commitment from all parties.
‘Investing in hospital and education buildings will improve access to and quality of services. We welcome funding to improve primary care, mental health, drug and alcohol and legal services. But the very modest and short term investments in services to support people experiencing domestic, family and/or sexual violence and in drug treatment services will only allow services to reduce their waiting lists – there will still be unmet demand.
'We welcome the fact that there are no cuts to the concession scheme and are encouraged that there has been an additional single year of funding. However, we note that the Government has flagged that they will continue to look into reform options in relation to the concession scheme. We will be actively involved in future design of the scheme.
‘Cost of living pressures will continue to disproportionately affect low income households. Even the small increases in fees and charges announced in this Budget will have a negative impact on very tight household budgets. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that there is no growth to emergency relief funding and that there have been significant Commonwealth cuts in emergency relief. We need a clear plan agreed as to the role that the ACT Government should take in addressing cost of living pressures over the longer term.’
Ms Helyar notes the Chief Minister has highlighted that Commonwealth cuts in health and education will have a massive impact on the ACT Budget as of 2017/2018.
‘In light of this economic outlook, our community needs a clear and transparent plan for how key community services will be delivered into the future. This plan needs to include:
- A consistent and coordinated advocacy strategy to reverse reductions in federal government investment in essential services, especially health, education and community services;
- Adequate revenue measures for funding and growing services as the population grows;
- Reorientation of investment to prevention and early intervention to reduce long term growth in the need for crisis and tertiary level services;
- Transparency regarding any cuts or savings;
- A rationale for both revenue measures and savings measures that the community can understand.’
Ms Helyar concluded, ‘Overall, the Budget identifies the challenges we face as a city, and begins the process of investing in the municipal, housing, education, health and community infrastructure we need. But this Budget needs to be seen as a down payment on a much larger investment needed to increase equality and social inclusion.’
For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.