The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today welcomed recommendations from the ACT Legislative Assembly’s Select Committee on the COVID-19 2021 pandemic response including a call for appropriate and ongoing funding for community services tasked with responding to increased need.
The Committee’s recommendations reflected many of the key issues raised in ACTCOSS’s verbal and written submission to the Committee. The recommendations include to:
- Examine ways of improving the response to COVID-19 in the ACT’s prison including to ensure appropriate access to legal, health and other community services for detainees and to consider the impact of COVID-19 on people on remand or awaiting sentencing
- Further develop the quality and transparency of ACT Government communications on public health directions and other measures in relation to COVID-19
- Ensure continued access to community services and emergency relief in times of crisis
- Use lessons learned from the effective partnerships developed between the Government and the ACT community sector during the 2021 COVID-19 outbreak to respond to future community needs; and
- Ensure appropriate, ongoing funding for community services, including mental health services, to respond to the needs of Canberrans following the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, particularly those experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “This year’s lockdowns were necessary to support and protect groups vulnerable to serious illness or death as a result of COVID-19.
“Overall, ACTCOSS congratulates the ACT Government on its swift and effective response to the 2021 COVID-19 outbreak in the Territory. This includes the ACT’s strong vaccination rate including among vulnerable communities; resources for community mental health services, drug and alcohol service, community-delivered health services and emergency food relief; and the recently announced rental relief fund,” said Dr Campbell.
However, ACTCOSS said that the Committee missed an opportunity to highlight ongoing areas of concern. These include the entrenching poverty amongst low-income earners, intensification of the ACT’s housing crisis and the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 crisis on Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, people with disabilities and carers in the ACT.
Dr Campbell said: “As COVID becomes endemic the vulnerabilities of Canberrans to COVID-19 are further exposed. There are concerns people are being left behind while other parts of the community reopen.
“Many community organisations working with vulnerable people also continue to be stretched. Too often, government funding is not covering the basic costs of providing services, let alone increased demand and case complexity as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“We are not out of the pandemic yet and there is a long way to go before all in our community have fully recovered from the social, financial and health effects of COVID-19. That is why ACTCOSS highlighted other key issues in our submission including the need for:
- Additional support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations
- Action on cost-of-living pressures including concessions
- Advocacy to the Federal Government to lift social security payments
- Action to expand the supply of social housing, especially community housing.
“ACTCOSS has also called on ACT Corrections to provide further protection for exiting detainees with exit-testing and supported access to second or third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as they leave the AMC,” Dr Campbell concluded.