The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has welcomed the release of the 2019-20 Budget by ACT Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr MLA and its alignment with a number of key priorities outlined in the ACTCOSS Budget submission.
ACTCOSS’ submission to the 2019-20 ACT Budget said we needed to set social indicators for the Budget alongside existing economic indicators. This Chief Minister has said these indicators will be developed this year and be ready for setting priorities and measuring progress in the 2020-21 Budget. We also highlighted gaps in high quality community-based services that can respond effectively to existing needs and to changes in population and needs. We wanted to see social infrastructure investment alongside urban renewal. This Budget delivers on a number of social infrastructure needs and commits to better engagement with the community and further investment.
ACTCOSS Executive Director Susan Helyar said, “We are glad the government has chosen to be ambitious about investing to meet the needs of a growing city, especially when it comes to health, justice and community facilities. There are a number of investments in disability services, mental health programs, legal assistance, planning for better school and community partnerships, transport infrastructure development and continuing to reduce and respond better to sexual, domestic and family violence.
“The health budget is substantial and addresses a number of gaps in infrastructure in the acute and community settings. The bulk of the new spending is in the government sector, not in community organisation delivered services.
“ACTCOSS particularly welcomes a package of investments in the justice reinvestment area including more supported housing for better justice outcomes-especially for women and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander detainees; improving rehabilitation options for detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre; bail support accommodation; staff training; and work to prevent recidivism. This is a substantial package of important justice reinvestments and changes to policing measures aimed at reducing the root causes of offending and increasing access to rehabilitation.
“This Budget includes a much-needed significant boost to social and community infrastructure including a new community centre for Woden, upgrades to three other community centres, and new childcare centres, playgrounds and carparks. It’s good to see spending on improving building quality called for in our submission to the ACT Housing Choices process. ACTCOSS welcomes the announcement of 2019-20 deliverables under the Affordable Housing Strategy of 80 public housing homes, 60 new community housing homes and 488 new homes for low-income households.
“There is over $15m investment in business development and jobs growth in a number of sectors, but no funding for implementation of the ACT Community Services Industry Strategy that the government endorsed in 2016. This strategy recognises the needs for investment in community services workforce, ICT, fleet and facilities, as well as improving data collection for outcomes assessment and evaluation. The lack of funding is disappointing given the ongoing growth of health services and social assistance as a major employer, a key driver of human capital development and ongoing contributor to economic activity. We will seek commitment from the ACT Government that the investment in VET sector programs will prioritise meeting the needs of community services employers.
“We welcome the announcement of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Procurement Policy which will preference Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander enterprises in the Canberra region to compete for work with the ACT Government. Increasing funding to community-controlled organisations for human services is vital to improve health, social and economic outcomes for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.
“There is a small and welcome increase in the utilities concession to $700, but no commitments around increasing the eligibility for concessions to people who are working but earning very low incomes. There is no action on our call for ability to pay being considered in the imposition of fines. We do note the recognition that rates increases need to moderate over the coming years for both apartments and standalone homes.
Ms Helyar concluded, “Overall, we see the ACT Government has recognised the need to better respond to highly at-risk groups. The bulk of new funding goes into government-delivered programs, not non-government services. We will continue to advocate for more resources to come out into community-managed organisations and to be dedicated to reducing risks, not only responding when they have emerged. Adoption of a set of social wellbeing indicators should increase the incentive to focus more on widespread and timely responses to the risk of adversity and more effective approaches to supporting people to get back on their feet and doing well.”