Welfare Carries Budget Burden
14 May 2014 at 11:15 am
Welfare bodies nationally claim that those being asked to carry the greatest burden from the Federal Budget spending cuts are those who can least afford it.
Representatives from 17 leading charities and community sector organisations are meeting in Canberra today to respond to the Budget.
The groups have warned that the budget is deeply unfair and will be devastating to people in Australia who are already doing it tough.
“The Budget divides rather than mends. It entrenches divisions between those with decent incomes, housing and health care and those without them,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
“It undermines the fabric of our social safety net with severe cuts to health, disability support, income support, community services and housing programs.
“A few measures are in the right direction, targeting those for whom the age of entitlement should be coming to an end: Abolishing the Seniors Supplement, Capping Family Tax benefit part B at $100 000, introducing a levy for people earning over $180,000, and taking super payments into account in assessing eligibility for the Senior’s Health Card. Corporate welfare is also shaved. However, most of these measures will inflict little damage or will only be felt for a short time.
“The real pain of this budget – crushing and permanent – will be felt by people on low incomes, young people, single parents, those with illness or disability, and those struggling to keep a roof over their heads. These are the groups doing the ‘heavy lifting’ for the Budget repair job.
“One of the most disturbing targets of this budget are our young people. The new rules will deny income support to young people up to 29 years, for six months of every year, unless exempted, and then force them into work for the dole. It will deny them Newstart Allowance until 24 (a loss of $48 per week), and move more young people on DSP to Newstart or Youth Allowance, a cut of at least $166 per week. We are excited about the investment for older workers who lose their jobs, but why treat the young and the old so differently?” Goldie said.
However, the Treasurer Joe Hockey told Parliament in his first Federal Budget speech that “we will build a sustainable welfare system that helps the most disadvantaged and supports the most vulnerable”.
According to the Victorian Council of Social Service, the Federal Budget cuts will overwhelmingly hurt the poorest in the community the hardest and create an uncertain future for a number of important state-based programs and services.
“Australians expect their governments to improve people’s lives, not make things harder for people who are already doing it tough,” Emma King, CEO of VCOSS, said.
“Cuts to vital payments for the most disadvantaged people, on the lowest incomes in our community, will have a lasting and devastating impact as they ripple out across the economy.
“This Budget will entrench disadvantage and threatens to consign a generation of young people to lives of poverty and vulnerability. It is particularly harsh on younger Australians who will find it more difficult to find and keep jobs and participate in the education and training they need.
“The Prime Minister and Treasurer have said everyone needs to share the load but the cuts and increased costs announced overnight will have a significant and disproportionate impact on disadvantaged Australians.
“Cuts to pensions and supports for people with an illness or disability, carers, young people, single parents and older people will make life much harder for Australians who already find it difficult to make ends meet.Increasing the cost of petrol will hurt families who rely on their cars to get themselves and their children around – especially in outer suburbs and in rural and regional areas.
“An $80 billion reduction in federal funding for education and hospitals over the next decade is deeply concerning and will have significant implications for Victoria. Lack of clarity on the future of several national partnership agreements will need to be examined in coming weeks and months.
“These reductions and apparent failure to match state funding in a number of areas also raise questions about some of the measures announced in the state budget last week.”
UnitingCare Australia’s National Director Lin Hatfield Dodds said that the Federal Budget fell short of its own ambition to provide equality of opportunity for all Australians.
"The burden of this budget falls overwhelmingly on families, pensioners and young people," Hatfield Dodds said.
"Cuts to family payments, income support and pensions are four times the size of the temporary levy on high income earners.
"Many of these cuts are permanent, while the high income levy runs for only three years.
"Medicare co-payments will hit the health and hip pockets of disadvantaged Australians.
"There are a number of budget measures that we support, including the levy on high income earners," Hatfield Dodds said.
"We urge the Government to consider continuing this levy until the budget returns to surplus.
Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers described the budget as backward.
“The government set the scene for a tough budget that really looked to the future, but many of the cuts to welfare and services are a return to the past,” Chambers said.
“Withholding income support for six months to anyone under 30 out of work might save some money in the short term, but it will not get people into paid work any quicker. It will simply make their life harder in the meantime.
“And requiring every patient to pay to see a doctor will not stop those who overuse the system, it will instead discourage those who need to take their health more seriously.
“This is a long lasting budget too. The decision to shift pensioners onto a lower indexation rate means their income will no longer grow faster than the inadequate Newstart Allowance. They will however, drop further and further behind the living standard of everyone else.
“And there is still some devil in the detail here. The Department of Social Services funds a number of essential support services, such as financial counselling and emergency relief, from its Discretionary Grant Programme. But we don’t yet know what will be cut in the $240 million savings slated here.
“It’s a budget without hope – leaving many vulnerable Australians behind.”
Those attending the Canberra NFP meeting include:
Craig Wallace, President, People with Disability Australia
Matthew Wright, CEO, Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
Ian Yates, Chief Executive, Council on The Aging (COTA)
Emma Robertson, Director, Youth Coalition of the ACT
Frank Quinlan, CEO, Mental Health Council of Australia
Kasy Chambers, Executive Director, Anglicare Australia
Terese Edwards, CEO, National Council of Single Mothers & their Children
Gerard Thomas, spokesperson, National Welfare Rights Network
Adrian Pisarski, Executive Officer, National Shelter
Carol Croce, Executive Director, Community Housing Federation of Australia
Dr John Falzon, CEO, St Vincent de Paul Society, National Council of Australia
Mary Mallett, CEO, Disability Advocacy Network Australia
Kelvin Alley (Major), National Secretary, The Salvation Army National Secretariat
Stephanie Gotlib, Executive Officer, Children with Disability Australia
David Pigott and Patrick Flynn, Mission Australia
Therese Sands, Co-Chief Executive Officer, People with Disability Australia
Eddy Bourke, Spokesperson, Community Housing Federation of Australia
Susan Helyar, Director, ACT Council of Social Service
Treasurer’s Budget speech is HERE
The details of the Budget’s Social Services package can be found HERE
The Budget Papers can be found HERE