ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Savings shouldn’t come from Concessions Program

12 February 2016

Today was the final day for organisations to submit their responses to the ACT Government’s Discussion Paper: Options to improve the fairness and targeting of the ACT Concessions Program, as part of the broader review of ACT Concessions.

Director of ACTCOSS, Susan Helyar, noted the organisation’s concern with what appears to be lack of consistency in the ACT Government’s goals of ‘improving the fairness and targeting of the ACT Concessions Program’ and the options outlined in the Options Paper.

“ACTCOSS believes a review of the Concession Program is an important step in ensuring that concessions are adequate to make a difference, fairly distributed across low income households and age groups (regardless of their source of income), and contribute to wider policy objectives regarding equality and social inclusion,” Ms Helyar said.

“However, of the ten options discussed in the paper, the majority appear to be cost savings measures, ranging from a saving of $50,000 per year to $7m per year,” Ms Helyar said. “While we recognise there are current budgetary pressures in the ACT, ACTCOSS strongly believes the government should not be trying to seek savings from the Concessions Program. Concessions help to balance the standard of living among citizens and help provide a more socially inclusive community through improving the affordability of essential services such as utilities, rates and transport.”

Carmel Franklin, Director of Care Inc. Financial Counselling Service agreed, noting, “As a financial counselling service funded to work with low to moderate income earners, we assist a significant number of clients who have eligibility for one or more concessions. Concessions are vital to our clients and a reduction as a cost saving measure risks harm to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our community.”

Ms Helyar also pointed out that decreases in some concessions could potentially have a ‘knock on’ effect on other areas, including cost increases in other parts of the human services system. “For example, a decrease in concessions in relation to electricity may lead to an increased demand on health services if people become ill as a result of not adequately heating their home, or increased contact with the legal system if people preference payment of electricity over car registration, rent or other consumer contracts,” she said.

“We would strongly recommend that the ACT Government undertake further and more detailed data analysis that will more clearly explain how the risks of changes to concessions to low income households will be mitigated, before considering implementing any of the options outlined in the Paper.”

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

Related reading:

Submission: Discussion Paper - Options to improve the fairness and targeting of the ACT Concessions Program