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.
“In its review of the concession system the ACT Government has asked which concessions are most important. Our Cost of Living Report shows that, actually, it is all of them. Our report shows that housing costs are not easing for people on low incomes and this creates significant pressures on already constrained household budgets. It is also a concern that cost of living pressures are impacting disproportionately on people in our community who have tight household budgets.”
ACTCOSS commented today that the government’s review of the concession system, while a useful opportunity to find ways to clarify and simplify eligibility requirements, must not be seen as a simple or risk free way of finding savings.
“We recognise that the ACT Government does need to find ways to balance its Budget, particularly given proposed cuts to the GST allocation to the ACT and several years of cuts in public sector spending by the Commonwealth. But this cannot come at the expense of people struggling most with cost of living pressures,” Ms Helyar said.
“Our Cost of Living Report shows that housing stress continues to be very high. This is a particular problem because, with the large proportion of low wage earner and welfare recipients’ income being dedicated to paying for housing, meeting these high costs displaces spending on other essential items such as food and groceries, utilities, healthcare and social participation.
“A thorough review of the ACT Concessions Program should consider the possibility that an expansion not reduction in the concessions program is needed, building on the 2012 Targeted Assistance Strategy, and assisting households in precarious financial circumstances to sustain access to key resources such as healthcare, utilities and a private vehicle.
“There are risks involved in making savings from the concession program,” Ms Heylar continued. “The full costs and benefits of possible changes need to be understood. Reductions in concessions may result in cost increases in other parts of the human services system, including health, education, justice and community services. The short time frame of four weeks for this review does not allow adequate time to analyse differences in eligibility for different groups in the community.”
Ms Helyar concluded, “We have recommended a number of improvements to the concessions offered by the ACT Government. We have also called on the ACT Government to undertake more detailed analysis of the purpose, adequacy and fairness of concessions, to undertake a cost:benefit analysis of concessions offered and complete a comprehensive analysis of data available prior to determining whether and how to reduce any concessions.”
For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987.
To hear from people about why they value concessions and the negative impacts of reducing concessions please contact
Stuart Anderson, Kippax UnitingCare, on 02 6254 1733.