Social Sector Says NSW Budget is ‘Disappointing’
21 June 2017 at 1:40 pm
Leading charities and peak bodies have declared the NSW budget a “missed opportunity” to address the state’s housing crisis and offer support to the state’s most vulnerable.
St Vincent de Paul Society NSW CEO Jack de Groot said it was “disappointing” that an “incredibly rich state” had allocated very little to where it was needed most.
“With a surplus of $4.5 billion this year, $500 million higher than forecast, the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW is disappointed very little was allocated to where the need is greatest – breaking the affordable housing gridlock facing the state,” de Groot said.
“Yes, there’s more for rail, roads, schools and hospitals, which is welcome news, but the homeless
and voiceless seem to have been forgotten yet again. The government will spend just 1.6 per cent of its expenditure on housing and community amenities in 2017-18.”
De Groot said the state had become unaffordable and, as a consequence, people were sleeping rough, in their car, at friends or at one of the crisis accommodation facilities.
“Today, other than relief for some first time buyers, there is nothing on the ledger for those people who are paying up to 70 per cent of their income on rent and who face homelessness,”de Groot said.
He said it was disappointing the government was doing little to help people pay for their “ballooning power bills”.
“With energy prices soaring by 20 per cent we are going to see many more people facing housing stress, where a tenant spends over 30 per cent of their income on accommodation,”de Groot said.
“The further sale of public assets, including the electricity network infrastructure and windfall from land taxes, has generated billions in revenue, but the government is doing little to help people pay their ballooning power bills and housing need.
“This budget is not the blueprint required for a long-term, financially sound social and affordable housing sector able to deliver safe, accessible and high-quality housing for the poorest.”
NCOSS CEO Tracy Howe also said the budget was a “missed opportunity”.
She said, given the billion of dollars in surplus, the social sector had been expecting a lot more.
“[We] were hoping to see significantly more investment in communities rather than physical infrastructure of roads and buildings,” Howe said.
“The budget fails to address the growing cost of living pressures for people on very low incomes, particularly the sky-rocketing cost of energy.
“Our latest Cost of Living report shows that too many people are having their health, wellbeing and financial stability compromised as they struggle to pay their energy bills, and our current rebates are inadequate to the task of supporting all households’ access to essential services.”
Howe said she was particularly disappointed by the limited investment in early intervention initiatives and early learning.
“While we’re spending record amounts on some parts of the social sector, we’re missing the opportunity to make significant investments early on for children and young people at risk of disadvantage. We know that early intervention and early education has the potential to make the most difference,” she said.
Howe said NCOSS was pleased the government had committed $217 million over four years for the Start Strong reforms to early childhood education, but said more was needed to ensure all children could benefit from this investment.
“We need to increase access to early education for vulnerable children, as there is a lack of supply and investment in these kids. NCOSS called for an Early Childhood Education Fund to ensure services can give children from disadvantaged backgrounds the best possible start to their education, and this has not been met,” she said.
“The injection of $4.2 billion into NSW schools is a great initiative that we would like to see mirrored in early education – early childhood education is key to helping break the cycle of poverty early on.”
Howe said overall the budget was “lukewarm” but she welcomed the $6 million in funding for community legal centres, $20 million for community-based mental health services and additional money for oral health services.