This year’s federal budget has finally recognised the importance of the community services sector, according to the peak body for community service providers in the Illawarra and southern NSW, the Community Industry Group. There has been some welcome investment in crucial community services, including significant investment in aged care, promises of more mental health services, improved access to childcare and a guarantee for wages in homelessness services.
“But while there have been some significant promises for community service providers, there is still a lack of support for people living on income support” said Community Industry Group CEO, Nicky Sloan
Some of the positives include the promise of injection of funds into age care. “The promise of 80,000 new home care packages over the next two years will do much to reduce the chronic waiting list” said Ms Sloan “However, we need to acknowledge that we still have a workforce which is understaffed and ill-equipped to meet the level of demand.”
There are 92,000 on the waiting list for home care packages, including many who are struggling to survive on packages at the wrong level for their care needs. The budget guarantees 200 minutes of care which includes 40 minutes of nursing care, but this falls well short of the hours of nursing needed.
“The current level of workforce shortages in aged care shows a clear need to make working in aged care more attractive” said Ms Sloan. “Not only for aged care workers, but also to address the desperate need for more Registered Nurses in the aged care sector.”
“The investment in training and local jobs is very welcome for the many people in the Illawarra and southern NSW who are unemployed”. Ms Sloan said “But we must bear in mind that people who are unemployed are still struggling to survive below the poverty level. JobSeeker remains at just $44 a day, Youth Allowance is even less and yet housing affordability is at crisis level in the region.”
“Sadly, the Budget leaves many people in the Illawarra and Southern NSW trapped. It does nothing to address the severe shortage of social and affordable housing or to raise social security payments to bring people who are unable to secure a job above the poverty line.” Nevertheless, there is the prospect that investment in care services will generate crucial jobs for the regions, and many of these will be for women.
The guarantee of equal wage funding for homelessness services means the sector can get on with the job of supporting people without a home, or at risk of homelessness” Ms Sloan said “there is great relief that programs will not need to be cut or reduced”.
About the Community Industry Group
Community Industry (formerly known as Illawarra Forum) is the peak body working for community services and organisations in the South East of NSW. It supports community organisations, promotes expertise and innovation in community development, fosters industry development and provides advocacy for social justice. Community Industry Group is an independent organisation governed by a committee of management elected annually by the membership.
Community Industry Group represents the non-government community services industry in the South East of NSW, and works closely with numerous organisations which provide support to vulnerable people across the region.