Budget: ‘Robin Hood’ Budget Comes Good, But Not for All - Welfare NFPs
Wednesday, 9th May 2012 at 10:34 am
Major welfare peak bodies and organisations have described the Federal Budget as promising, fair and a ‘Robin Hood” style approach to fiscal management – but still some have been left behind.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) says the the overall approach of the “Robin Hood” style Federal Budget, will improve the lives of people on low incomes – except for 100,000 of the country’s poorest families.
"This Budget reduces supports and tax breaks for those that need them least, and strengthens them for those that need them the most, except for the poorest sole parents, who are left up to $60 a week worse off," said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
"We are delighted that a number of our recommendations to make the Budget more equitable and sustainable have finally been taken up, such as rolling back superannuation tax concessions for high earners; tightening the living away from home allowance; targeting tax breaks for golden handshakes; and phasing out the inefficient mature age worker tax offset. It begins important work on tax reform, which must now be extended, building consensus along the road.
"As well as achieving a surplus the Budget redirects some of that wasteful spending to begin the work on some of our most pressing social issues, including dental health reform, reductions in carbon emissions, the NDIS, and the adequacy of allowances and family tax payments (including the liquid assets test for people claiming income support).
"We welcome the commitment to work towards a national dental scheme from next year. The $500 million investment (over half of which is new money) will be welcome relief to the 400,000 people on public dental waiting lists.
"The new Supplementary Allowance of around $4 per week is welcome though it is no substitute for raising Newstart to a decent liveable level and indexed to wages like Pensions instead of CPI but it is the first real increase in the Newstart Allowance payment for twenty years. Further increases to these Allowance payments are essential to reduce poverty and put people in a better position to find paid work. We take it as a sign of good faith that recognises this payment is inadequate, with a much more substantial increase to be achieved around the corner.
"However, it is disappointing that the Budget does not strengthen investment in employment services for long term unemployed people, who still only get an interview every two months and $500 worth of other help. The Budget cuts to Job Services Australia are unsustainable and underscore the need for a major review of the system.
"The major blight on this year's Budget is the unnecessary attack on 100,000 single parents who'll be left worse off. The surplus could have been achieved without leaving some of the most disadvantaged families and their children in deficit.
"People on Parenting Payments will be left around $60 a week poorer by being forced off their current payment ($324 a week) onto the lower paying Newstart Allowance ($265 per week) when their youngest child turns eight.
"This measure goes against the grain of an otherwise balanced and fair Budget and we urge the Government to reconsider. This will drive many more families into poverty and ACOSS will be calling on parliamentarians to reject any legislation to bring this into affect."
UnitingCare Australia said the Federal Budget is fiscally responsible and fair overall. It will deliver a decent chance at a decent life for more Australians.
National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds said the suite of Budget initiatives promises a brighter future for families and unemployed Australians.
“Reducing executive tax perks and golden hand-shakes, better targeting superannuation concessions, and deferring defence spending have enabled the Government to spend more on the things that matter," Hatfield Dodds said.
“Investment in aged care reform, rolling out the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and better access to dental services for low income and disadvantaged Australians are particularly welcome initiatives.
“This package boosts support for families by $1.8 billion, and includes a new supplementary allowance worth $1.1 billion for people receiving Newstart, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment. While this very modest allowance falls well short of the $50 a week increase we called for, it’s a trend in the right direction.
“We hope it’s a down-payment on a decent increase in unemployment benefits in next year’s budget."
According to Anglicare, the Federal Budget falls short in vision, and is constricted to delivering a surplus despite the real human and economic cost.
ANGLICARE Sydney CEO Grant Millard the Budget is harshest on those who have the least, but can contribute much given the opportunity.
“Key initiatives like increasing the Newstart allowance that would greatly improve workforce participation and reduce social exclusion have been ignored,” Millard said.
“By ignoring the call from welfare organisations and conservative economists alike to increase Newstart, the government is allowing a situation where families and individuals are trapped in poverty to continue."
The Salvos say Australia’s most disadvantaged will still struggle despite Budget initiatives.
Although The Salvation Army welcomes a range of measures announced in the Federal Budget, the organisation says it is particularly concerned that there is no real relief for the most disadvantaged -who are already barely surviving on income support payments like Newstart or Youth Allowance.
While the lack of housing affordability continues and housing stress has become an accepted part of people's lives, those on the nation's lowest incomes need our help more than ever.
Sadly missing in this budget is the relatively meagre $50 a week increase to these allowances recommended by the Henry Tax Review and supported by almost every agency and peak body connected with those who are doing it tough.
Catholic Social Services Australia says it’s a good Battler’s Budget – but, some are still left behind.
“The modest supplement to the Newstart Allowance shows recognition of the extreme financial circumstances faced by nearly 600,000 jobless Australians,” said Executive Director of Catholic Social Services Australia, Paul O’Callaghan.
“It is virtually impossible to provide for the necessities of life on the current Newstart allowance. It is also hard to effectively seek out jobs on $35/day. A more substantial increase should be made next year.”
“Catholic Social Services Australia believes that getting a job is the best outcome for a person receiving income support,” said Mr O’Callaghan.
"But, the Budget offered no solace for those job seekers with chronic and multiple disadvantages, who are not able to access the basic support needed over time to participate in community life and, where feasible, get a job. The reduction in Job Services funding will only make this harder.”
“We are especially concerned with the large number of single parents who will move from the Parenting Payment onto Newstart as a result of this Budget,” said O’Callaghan.
“100,000 single parent families will be hard hit by this change. They will join an increasing number of people with disabilities who are being moved onto Newstart and for whom there are too few available jobs.”
“The Budget provides a welcome investment in people, including many on lower incomes. The next step is to include some of those who have been left behind,” he concluded.
The CEO of Wesley Mission the Rev Dr Keith Garner said private dental insurance was prohibitive for most low income earners and the $515.3 million dentistry package was long overdue.
“Some $345.9 million of the package will be used to treat some of the 400,000 patients on dental waiting lists," Garner said.
“Many people see dental health as unrelated to mental health but in Wesley Mission’s experience the two are closely related,” Dr Garner said. “Every day Wesley Mission deals with hundreds of people who are homeless and are struggling with mental health issues.
“Many have dental health problems which have gone untreated for years. Pain, discomfort and stigma feed into depression, excluding some from employment and long term security.”
The $3.7 billion over five years to revamp aged care signals a change of focus from residential living to age care in the home.
“The $268 million to assist people diagnosed with dementia is timely as the prevalence of dementia is expected to climb dramatically over the next 10 years,” Dr Garner said.
“The $1.2 billion that the Government has invested into the workforce is long overdue. The need for wages and conditions to improve is imperative in attracting and retaining a skilled workforce.
“The increase in funding for palliative care gives comfort to older Australians that they will be able to age and die well in the location of their choice.”
From March 2013 income support recipients will receive a tax-free, twice-yearly Supplementary Allowance to meet unexpected costs such as dental care, medical expenses or motor vehicle costs.
Read all our coverage of the 2012 Budget here.
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