FRSA’s Preliminary Analysis – Federal Budget 2019-20

Tonight’s Federal Budget has certainly lived up to expectations.

Whilst the tax cuts do appear to provide the greatest outcome for the higher earners – tax cuts for a large number of households and families will provide some welcome relief for people increasingly impacted and struggling to meet the increasing costs of housing, living, electricity, fuel, food, etc. However, the policy settings that would significantly shift the drivers increasing the costs across a range of these issues are not being addressed in this Federal Budget.

As providers of services funded to deliver services for children, families and communities throughout Australia, a key aspect of these services is that they are targeted to vulnerable and/or disadvantaged children, families and communities. And as our members can attest as they walk the daily walk with these children, families and communities, addressing poverty and homelessness are vital if we are to bring about the change that these children, families and communities need.

The ACOSS/UNSW Report “Poverty in Australia 2018” found that there are 3 million people living below the poverty line in Australia, including 739,000 children. The profile of poverty by family type (% of people in poverty) is overwhelmingly high in coupled families with children and sole parent families.

With a surplus budget, the failure in this Federal Budget to shift on the level of Newstart and Youth Allowance is unfathomable. With a number of one-off payments being offered, the decision by Government not to provide something akin to the cash payment of $75 to single pensioners ($125 for couples) once again demonises and ostracises people in our community already living on the edge.

You will be able to hear, read and see in the mainstream media the key announcements of the Federal Budget. As we always attempt to do, the focus of the FRSA Federal Budget Preliminary Analysis is to provide you with a more focused, targeted view of the Federal Budget paper for the year.

As we have already alluded to in our recent FRSA e-bulletin, we were not expecting any new announcements tonight specifically targeted at our sector.

One of the key announcements for our sector is in relation to the Fourth Action Plan (2019-22) to reduce violence against women and their children. Tonight’s announcement resembles the information that was previously released and highlighted in the most recent FRSA e-bulletin. The Federal Budget papers do not provide us with any further detail than we were able to share with you at that time.

Details of the Government’s intentions for a Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability was announced and it is good to see a solid investment being committed.

Whilst on a much smaller scale, the announcement to fund a National Museum and memorial for Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse is also a positive measure. Over the weekend we saw the announcement concerning the establishment of a National Centre for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse that will sit within the Department of Social Services. This too is an important outcome of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

It was certainly positive to see that Community Legal Centres, Legal Aid Commissions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services receive affirming news in the budget that their funding would continue beyond the current term of funding ending on 30 June 2020.  The three years of funding outlined in the Federal Budget papers amount to $1.2 billion but in reality represent an increase of about $10 million per annum. This certainly falls way short of what the Law Council of Australia has been calling for.

Looming large for the FRSA sector are critical workforce shortages and workforce development needs as well as increasing costs of service delivery. The funding envelope for many services has remained static for many, many years whilst costs keep rising. At the heart of these increased costs are salary costs and there are growing concerns in the sector as to what the Government of the day will do when the SACS supplementation fund runs out on 30 June 2021. These issues aren’t about us or about the services. They are about the children, families and communities we work with. Static funding envelopes and increasing costs mean a reduction in service provision, in the face of increasing demand, and this is a trend that we will need to work hard to reverse in future Federal Budgets.