Tuesday night’s Budget prioritised hip pocket savings over real help for Australia’s most disadvantaged
Published: 11 May 2018
Tuesday night’s Federal Budget was a missed opportunity to provide a decent standard of living for Australia’s most disadvantaged and for every school to be provided with highly trained mental health professionals the AASW’s National President Christine Craik said.
“With $62.2 million for sovereign borders, but only $18.2 million for family violence, it is easy to see that when the Government says it wants to keep Australians safe, they don’t mean women and children at risk of family violence," said Ms Craik.
“In this budget, the Government has ignored an opportunity to overturn the punitive and harsh approach to the most vulnerable in our community.”
The AASW was disappointed to see that this budget contains an expansion of the automated debt recovery scheme, the extension of the cashless debit card, a lengthening of the period before migrants can receive some welfare benefits and automatic deduction of fines for people on income support. These are all issues that the AASW has advocated against, highlighting the detrimental effect on people who are often the least able to bear them. There was also very little to address climate change, which will lead to more suffering for those most vulnerable.
The AASW joins with many other community organisations and advocacy groups who are dismayed that there were no measures to address the housing and homelessness crisis, with federal spending in this area to drop to its lowest level in a decade.
Ms Craik said, “People who are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness, and struggling to maintain secure and appropriate housing, will continue to face ill health, stress and mental illness, and fall back on already stretched services, where social workers work and deal with people who just want a home.
“The Government’s decision to ignore widespread community concern that people relying on income support are being kept in poverty, is a further indication of where the Government’s values lie. The Newstart rates are so low that they prevent people from finding work: even the Business Council of Australia agrees with what our members see every day,” she said.
While a provision in the budget for the extension of the School Chaplaincy program goes some way to support students, people appointed to these positions are not adequately qualified to replace the lost programs to address bullying, and address other complex issues young people are dealing with. Social workers are well placed to meet these needs.
Ms Craik said, “Every school needs social workers. The earlier we work with children and families on issues resulting from family violence, child sexual abuse and systemic discrimination, the earlier we turn the tide on the increasing rates of youth mental health.”
The AASW welcomed some measures contained in the Federal Budget.
Ms Craik said, “We welcome funding allocations to mental health and aged care, in particular, the initiatives that address the mental health of people in residential aged care, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and the support for people who are at risk of suicide. However, we can’t ignore the fact that the harshest and most punitive changes are directed squarely at the most vulnerable; they trap people in poverty and lock them out of work.
“The AASW is keen to learn more about how these initiatives will be implemented, and to working with the Government to ensure that they achieve the best possible outcomes for people. But we will continue to advocate for the human rights and social justice for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our community.
“It is easy to see that this is a populist budget for re-election, rather than a proactive chance to address Australia’s social problems.”
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