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Welfare Budget Lacks Direction


Wednesday, 13th May 2015 at 12:13 pm
Lina Caneva, Editor
The Federal Government’s welfare Budget lacks a sense of direction and fails to address some of Australia’s biggest social problems including housing and homelessness, according to the Not for Profit sector.

Wednesday, 13th May 2015
at 12:13 pm
Lina Caneva, Editor


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Welfare Budget Lacks Direction
Wednesday, 13th May 2015 at 12:13 pm

The Federal Government’s welfare Budget lacks a sense of direction and fails to address some of Australia’s biggest social problems including housing and homelessness, according to the Not for Profit sector.

The Federal Government’s welfare Budget lacks a sense of direction and fails to address some of Australia’s biggest social problems including housing and homelessness, according to the Not for Profit sector.

The Government said it will spend $154 billion on welfare in 2015-16, which is around 35 per cent of total Government expenditure.

But this year’s Budget lacks direction, according Anglicare Australia’s Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

“There’s widespread relief among services working with the most vulnerable Australians that the initiatives in this year’s Budget are likely to make life better rather than worse,” Chambers said.

“We see that most clearly in some of the Government’s innovative responses to young job seekers, which take a person-first rather than work-first approach to exclusion from the workforce. This reinforces the view across the Anglicare network that constructive economic policy is inclusive social policy too.

“But sadly when all added up, it’s pretty clear that this is – nonetheless – a Budget that lacks direction. Our biggest problems remain unaddressed, and despite the innovations in childcare and employment, in this scattergun approach there are too many Australians who are being left behind.

“People simply can’t get by on Newstart or the Youth Allowance. Whether it is living as a single person or a family, inadequate income leaves people anxious, unhealthy, often hungry, and much less able to find work.

“New childcare arrangements promise to make life simpler for many when they finally come into force in 2017. However, single parents who are out of work may lose some of their invaluable family tax benefit and their children miss out on the early childhood education that can make such a difference to their lives.

“We note there was no commitment to addressing the critical national shortage of affordable housing for people on low incomes despite the improved work or training packages government might be able to offer. Without a secure and affordable home, people continually find themselves trapped out of work, out of school and increasingly unwell.

“Similarly, although it’s widely acknowledged that we need to take action together on mental health, there’s absolutely nothing in the Budget but talk about a plan.  

“The notion of taking a wider responsibility for those whose voice is least often heard is really the part that is missing in this whole Budget story.”

UnitingCare Australia said the Budget delivers poorly-targeted Government handouts and not enough substantial investment in the people and areas that require the most support.

“The Government needs to decide whether or not it is serious about clamping down on middle class welfare,” National Director of UnitingCare Australia, Lin Hatfield Dodds said.

“Pension eligibility rules are rightly being tightened. Additional support for childcare is welcome, particularly for vulnerable children. However, the targeting of this measure is undermined by the funding of fifty percent of childcare costs for wealthy families. This is a much bigger handout than suggested by the Productivity Commission in their review.

“The poorest Australians continue to live on inadequate payments with single Newstart recipients living on just $260 a week. This is less than the amount an aged pensioner with a $1.5 million home and $300,000 in assets will continue to receive from the Government.

“The lack of attention to investing in disadvantaged people, and to exploring more substantial social and fiscal reform is a missed opportunity with significant consequences for the 1 million Australians who live in chronic, entrenched disadvantage.”

Welfare peak body ACOSS said the Budget also leaves gaping holes in the social safety net.

“Missing in action is any fix to the low rate of allowance payments and the indexation of allowances and family payments (which are still indexed to the CPI only), the continuing lack of investment in affordable housing; and the loss of funding for vital policy, advocacy and service delivery across social services, health and legal assistance and in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

“We support a credible path back to surplus. However, if we fail to strengthen public revenue now, future governments will be forced to make further spending cuts in the future.

"The community is still looking for leadership from the Government to deliver structural reforms in crucial areas of public priority: jobs and skills, health, community services, and retirement incomes.

"Tax reform must be the next priority for responsible, fair and measured action. This Budget should have begun the work to safeguard the social safety net into the future, by trimming unfair tax concessions for superannuation and reforming negative gearing and capital gains tax breaks,.

"Now is the time for the Government to lead a staged reform process to secure a sustainable revenue base and enable investment in essential social and economic infrastructure."

A national housing and homelessness policy that addresses the acute shortage of social and affordable housing is the missing piece in the budget puzzle, according to Mission Australia.

“Housing is the biggest cost of living issues affecting low income earners in Australia and we need national leadership to deliver greater supply of social and affordable housing, an increase in rent assistance, a tax system provides incentive for private investment in affordable housing rather than pushing up prices and long-term commitment to homeless service funding,” Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans said

“Whilst additional investment in awareness campaign to reduce domestic and family violence is a good start, we’ve got a long way to go to reducing domestic and family violence, which we know is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children.”

BUDGET papers relating to Welfare can be found HERE.

 


Lina Caneva  |  Editor |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and Editor of Pro Bono Australia News since it was founded in 2000.

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