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The Community Service sector newsletter, Pro Bono, published the following article on the Federal Budget.

‘The community sector is giving a mixed reception to the federal budget, with nods for community services funding and support for volunteering, but roundly condemning the lack of movement on JobSeeker rates even as the government issues its much-criticised stage 3 tax cuts.

“As cost of living and housing pressures go through the roof, people who rely on income support are unable to pay for many of the essentials of life,” Mission Australia’s CEO Sharon Callister said.

“Mission Australia acknowledges the $33 billion allocated to income support in the budget over the forward estimates, which reflects rises in payments linked to the cost of inflation and the projection that unemployment will worsen in the coming years. However, this does nothing to adequately increase support to a level that keeps people out of poverty and homelessness.”

Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie shared Mission’s concerns. 

“We remain deeply concerned for people who have the least and are in chronic financial distress – people who are unemployed, single parents, people with disabilities, students and people on temporary visas. There isn’t enough in this budget to help them right now,” she said.

“People on the lowest incomes are facing multiple and unrelenting crises right now – extreme weather events, rising rents, food and fuel costs, and the prospect of more losing their jobs means that government must deliver on lifting incomes and social and affordable housing.

“Instead of spending money on stage 3 tax cuts, we could lift incomes, including jobseeker and disaster recovery payments, fund social housing, and adequately fund community services so they can help people when they need it most.”

Anti-Poverty Network SA spokesperson Duncan Bainbridge said the most recent $1.83-a-day rise to JobSeeker, an automatic, twice-a-year indexation to ensure JobSeeker matches inflation, does not even come close to matching what is happening to people’s lives. 

“JobSeeker is only $48 a day. People on JobSeeker are facing unprecedented, unsustainable rises in rents, and other basic costs. We hear of $30-$50-a-week rent rises, compounded by double-digit percentage increases in utility and fresh food costs. These increases are blowing a low-income person’s budget to pieces,” he said. 

“Labor should recognise this, and implement an immediate raise to JobSeeker and other payments, lifting them above the poverty-line, something long supported by most of the community.”

Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said the most disappointing part of the budget was the stage 3 tax cuts. 

“Even those set to benefit say they don’t need them,” she said. 

“These tax cuts will damage our progressive tax system and lock-in unfairness. Our costings show that if the government scrapped the tax cuts, it could lift 2.4 million people out of poverty and boost affordable housing – with savings to spare.

“If the government is serious about wellbeing, it should be lifting people out of poverty – not handing money back to people who don’t want or need it.”

Youth

Mission Australia welcomed funding for a new Office for Youth and the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition. 

“The government has recognised that now is a critical time to ensure young people are heard and should play a key role in creating and advising on solutions that will address issues that affect them, other young people, and Australia,” said Sharon Callister.  

“Young people have the answers. It’s a matter of ensuring they are genuinely listened to, included in decision-making processes, and their concerns acted upon. Because Australia’s future rests on the shoulders of our young people.”

Advocates had called for extensive measures easing the pressure on young people in the lead up to the budget.

Community services  

Anglicare Australia said it welcomed $560 million investment in community services, as well as investment in aged care, paid parental leave and child care. 

“The government is also making a start on the cost-of-living crisis. Charities and community groups are seeing more and more people come to us for help, but our funding isn’t keeping up,” said Chambers. 

“Tonight’s fund for one-off top-ups will help in the short-term. In the long-term, we will work with the government to make sure the services people rely on are funded to keep up with rising costs – nothing short of a fair and transparent indexation will fix this.”

Mission Australia’s Sharon Callister also said the the community services funding is a good first step to “meet the funding gap to deliver support to people in need, when they need it”.

“However, we are concerned that the competitive process to access those funds will force non-profit organisations to compete with each other and will divert valuable resources towards jumping through hoops for extra funding,” she said.

“We look forward to hearing more from the government about their future plans for the long-term adequacy and sustainability of community services.”

Volunteering

Volunteering Australia says significant new funding will support major volunteer-involving organisations, recognising the “crucial role volunteers play supporting the priorities of the federal government”.

The Disaster Relief Australia (DRA)’s National Veteran Volunteer Service will receive a  $38.3 million funding boost, which will lead to around 6,700 veterans providing over 13,600 volunteer days a year. 

“Volunteering Australia welcomes the Australian Treasurer’s commitment to putting wellbeing and ‘measuring what matters’ at the heart of future budgets,” Volunteering Australia CEO Mark Pearce said. 

“It is essential that volunteering is included in the frameworks and metrics that are used to track wellbeing and to guide the allocation of spending.”