ACOSS Calls for $2 Billion Budget Boost for Community Services
19 February 2019 at 4:58 pm
Australia’s community services sector needs a $2 billion a year federal funding injection to reverse major budget cuts to programs that vulnerable people rely on, the nation’s peak welfare body says.
The Australian Council of Social Service’s 2019 budget submission said Commonwealth funding for community services had been marked by uncertainty, under-resourcing and cuts in recent years.
The group warned these cuts were creating “unnecessary roadblocks” that limited the sector’s ability to achieve change for people experiencing poverty and disadvantage.
“Since 2013 we have seen billions of dollars cut from the programs and services that people in the greatest need rely on, cuts which have occurred in the context of growth in population and demand for services, and increases in the cost of providing them,” the submission said.
ACOSS is calling for a $2 billion a year Commonwealth funding increase for community services – focused on areas including domestic and family violence initiatives, asylum seeker programs, homelessness services and disability advocacy.
John Mikelsons, an ACOSS senior policy and advocacy officer, told Pro Bono News vulnerable people had borne the brunt of recent budget cuts.
“These cuts are to services directly linked to the wellbeing of people on the lowest incomes,” Mikelsons said.
“It means less money for people in financial crisis, less money for programs helping families and children facing eviction and homelessness, and less money for people with mental health problems.”
ACOSS is also calling for “fair and uniform” indexation to all grants and contracts for community sector organisations.
It recommends this be done by using the Wage Price Index – when greater than the Consumer Price Index – as the primary index for annual funding adjustments.
Mikelsons said the cost of service delivery for many organisations already outweighed Commonwealth funding.
“This gets worse every year when indexation is not applied,” he said.
“The Commonwealth doesn’t have a consistent approach to indexation of funding for community organisations and that means there’s a real cut to the value of their funding… as a result services are inevitably cut.”
The submission said this rebalancing of the budget could be achieved by cutting spending on “wasteful schemes we cannot afford to continue” such as the private health insurance rebate and tax concession for wealthy retirees.
ACOSS also renewed their calls to raise Newstart and Youth Allowance by $75 a week, at the cost of $3.3 billion a year, and said the compulsory cashless welfare card should be scrapped to save the government $70 million.