How Australia can 'build back better' after coronavirus
29 April 2020 at 5:59 pm
ACOSS has outlined a five-point plan they say will help Australia recover from the pandemic
Australia’s peak body for social services is warning against returning to old social and economic policies post coronavirus, and instead is calling for a plan that supports people and communities to get the country back on track.
In a report launched on Wednesday, the Australian Council of Social Service outlined a plan for Australia to “build back better” and avoid the incoming crisis of mass-unemployment as a fall-out of the pandemic.
The report said the unprecedented bushfires and COVID-19 had exposed weaknesses in the country’s social, environmental and economic support systems, and that things could not “snap back” to how they were before.
“We must plan for, and coordinate, a jobs-rich recovery as the economy and labour market undergo the second major restructure in less than a year – from a stay-at-home economy to one that’s likely to be very different to business-as-usual,” the report said.
An alternative future
One of the key recommendations by the advocacy group is that Australia undertake an ambitious $7 billion program to build 30,000 social housing dwellings to create jobs and reduce homelessness.
The report said that the COVID lockdowns had exposed the scale of homelessness and rough sleeping in Australia and that as winter approached, homelessness services were struggling to find suitable housing for people where they could keep safe from catching coronavirus.
Read more: Ending homelessness in a crisis?
ACOSS also called for a national program to improve energy efficiency and install solar panels on the homes of people on low incomes, as well as ongoing financial support for low and modest-income households.
While $5.6 billion was spent on social housing in three and a half years by the Rudd and Gillard governments in response to the 2008 global financial crisis, ACOSS’ CEO said that successive governments slashed budgets to return to a surplus, at the expense of people.
Goldie said it was critical that government, business and civil society worked together to prevent the impending unemployment crisis in a different way.
“Let’s learn from our past. We can train people up, invest in their skills and smarts, so that they can make the most of job opportunities as they return,” Goldie said.
“We can work with employers on creating flexible, fair jobs so that the half a million people or more who will end up relying on JobSeeker Payment for over a year – many of whom have disabilities, caring responsibilities, or face age discrimination – are not left behind.”
Other elements of the five-point plan are closing the gaps in home care services to focus on those most at risk, and creating jobs and pursuing reforms to avert a rise in long-term and structural unemployment.
Read the full report here.