Northside Community Service is disappointed that yesterday’s Budget for 2016/17 fails to address community concerns around important social challenges facing all Australians, including Canberrans.
Despite claiming in the 2013 Federal Election that funding and policy settings for early childhood education and care (ECEC) were in chaos and unsustainable, the Government’s ECEC reform package has been pushed back 12 months to July 2018. This will mark 5 years of absolute inaction, leaving children, their families and the sector to face further uncertainty for another 2 years.
Northside has a number of concerns regarding the “Jobs for Families” reform package, which we have raised in our submission to the recent Senate Inquiry. We call on the Government to undertake a complete overhaul of their planned reforms to place the focus on providing high quality early education for all children, regardless of their family’s work arrangements and socio-economic status.
Northside also calls on the Government to provide long-term certainty around funding for the Universal Access to Early Childhood Education National Partnership Agreement, which in the Budget papers is only funded until the end of 2017. Ensuring access to a high-quality learning environment in the year before school was a bipartisan commitment, and the ongoing uncertainty around this funding since the Government took office in 2013 needs to end.
This Budget has failed to address or has continued a number of cuts to social programs that the community has rejected since the 2014 Budget. The significant cuts to mental health programs, including 75% reductions to programs supporting youth mental health, will have devastating impacts on young people experiencing mental health issues in our community.
Northside is concerned about the scale of funding that is being cut from aged care, which at $1.2 billion could have very negative effects. Northside does however welcome the introduction of transition assistance funding, but awaits more information on how this will be rolled out.
The Budget has also failed to address the impending end of the National Partnership on Homelessness. This is a key strategy to tackle the pervasive issue of homelessness, and we call on the Government to immediately commit to extending this funding beyond July 2017 and into the long-term.
Homelessness will not decrease if housing affordability is not a key focus for governments. There was nothing in this budget to make a positive impact on home ownership and rental markets, which are increasingly out of reach of low and middle income workers, including many community services workers and their clients.
Northside is also disappointed that despite the recent Closing the Gap results which reveal a significant amount of work is needed to meet those targets, the Budget has provided almost no new information on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. No effort has been made to address the damaging cuts to Aboriginal and community legal centres, and other programs cut back in the 2014 Budget.
Northside’s vision is for a fair and inclusive community. Unfortunately, this budget does nothing to address inequality, but entrenches it.
Simon Rosenberg, Chief Executive Officer