ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: A defining moment - ACT Budget must choose to tackle inequality and invest in good social infrastructure across Canberra

1 June 2017

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has described next week’s Budget as a defining moment for Canberra and urged the ACT Government to make a push to tackle inequality and ensure well planned, designed and funded community services are the cornerstones of next week’s ACT Budget.

ACTCOSS’ priorities for the ACT Budget are based on our community shared statement priorities for the ACT election and are outlined in our 2017-18 Budget submission and our post-election Budget briefing – these include:

  • A whole of government housing strategy with annual reporting, funding for housing advocacy and action to create affordable and accessible supply including a $100 million investment from current government bonds to create an investment fund for community housing as well as action on universal design and energy efficiency in rental housing promised by the government in its Parliamentary agreement
  • Investments in transport, including community transport, that align with social determinants and maximise accessibility, affordability including for people off the trunk routes, people needing concessions and people with disabilities
  • Ensuring truly integrated approaches to planning across city infrastructure and transport that increase amenity for residents, eliminate transport disadvantage and respect citizen voice in decision making
  • Monitoring, mapping and retaining contingency funds for emerging gaps in social infrastructure in disability, housing, advocacy and mental health caused by funding changes
  • Investments in education which emphasise intensive case management and improvements in education outcomes to those most at risk of not reaching attainment benchmarks as well as early, well targeted responses to at risk students
  • Investments for people with disability which support effective implementation of the National Disability Strategy, work on better planning for access and maintaining mental health and other programs for those who miss out on the National Disability Insurance Scheme
  • Ongoing funding for justice programs including Street Law and throughcare.

ACTCOSS Director Susan Helyar says, “Our message from last year’s election was that while people were wary about a long term government, they were swayed by the promise a re-elected progressive government had a clear plan for social and economic investment in our city. Voters wanted to hear about practical measures for improving our suburbs as well as the city centre, backed promises to increase transparency of government decision making, sought commitments to preserve our natural heritage, and spoke about not being able to secure affordable, accessible housing, get to where they needed to go on public transport or find a secure job. These are the issues closest to the lives of ordinary Canberrans.

“Voters heard and rewarded announcements in the final stages of the campaign that the Barr government would develop a comprehensive, affordable housing strategy and increase services to people who are homeless. Promises from the ACT Greens of work on a Carers Strategy, mandating universal design and disability access; and to address the barriers to improving educational attainment for young people also resonated with voters. Both Labor and the Greens announced plans to address gaps within and beyond universal health, education and transport services.

“Next week should be about the energetic delivery of these plans, what we value as a city and the choices government makes about what to invest in.

“As announcements emerge, we welcome commitments to education funding including the vocational package for mature female workers; school modernisation works at Belconnen; investments in safer environments for children and young people; and investments in education for students with disabilities. We also welcome moves towards zero emissions and better access to bulk billing on Canberra’s southside.

“There are good transport investments emerging including two months free travel on Green and Black Rapid buses; infrastructure for Transport Canberra; continuation of the Route 182 Weston Line.  These align well to the priorities identified by the community prior to the ACT election.

“However, it is hard to see the positive impact of investments in a $5.34 million nightlife package with a reduction in licensing fees and a $1.35 million trial for automated vehicles, on the issues and costs of living faced by the people we represent. 

“ACTCOSS urges the government to choose the high road by prioritising investments in housing, transport, mental health and disability services. We must maintain key social and community infrastructure for the places and people in our city which risk falling behind or being invisible as the city and economy changes.

“We want city and urban renewal to improve amenity and accessibility for people on low incomes, of all ages and with barriers to participating in events and activities. We want investments in human capital and business opportunities to enable more people to access a job that pays a living wage. The risk of failing to deliberately invest to reduce inequality in these ways is that we create a more unequal city by omission even though none of us intended this,” Ms Helyar concluded.

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.