Today’s NSW Budget takes great strides towards tackling some of the key issues affecting people experiencing disadvantage and poverty, but leaves some of those most in need of support behind according to the Council of Social Service of NSW (NCOSS).
NCOSS CEO Tracy Howe said today’s announcement to boost social housing supply by around 1,020 dwellings and confirmation of the government’s commitment to establishing a social and affordable housing fund of up to $1billion will be crucial in addressing the State’s 60 000 household long waiting list.
“NSW is in a better position than it’s ever been to invest in in these crucial areas. But despite a $2.1 billion surplus, crucial disability services and an integrated response to domestic and family violence have again been overlooked.”
Ms Howe said disability advocacy services that are already playing a crucial role in the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, amongst other things, have no funding certainty past 2016.
“During the largest shake up in the delivery of services for people with disability, there has never been a worse time for these services to be operating under a cloud of uncertainty.
Ms Howe said an integrated response to domestic and family violence in NSW could not wait a moment longer.
“Rates of domestic and family violence in NSW are at a crisis point. A NSW Women’s Alliance report, A Safer State, has put together a $100 million investment plan that would be a game changer for women and children.
“This is a drop in the ocean, when the extent of our current surplus is considered.”
Ms Howe said it was great to see an increase in funding of 11% for rebates to assist people experiencing poverty and disadvantage meet cost of living pressures.
“Rebates are crucial for ensuring people experiencing poverty and disadvantage are able to access essential services such as electricity and gas.
“However, we must ensure this funding is reaching those who need it the most. A change to a percentage based rebate system that pays for a percentage of the bill rather than a flat rate would go a long way to ensuring people are getting the assistance they need.”
NCOSS is very concerned that the state’s growing prison population is proving a further drain on the state budget, with the Government now forced to commit an extra $314.6 million to provide places for a further 1000 prisoners, including the building and expansion of additional correctional facilities.
Ms Howe said she was very concerned by the impacts Federal Government cuts were having on State Government service delivery.
“While we welcome the State’s more than 5% funding increase across the health and education portfolios over the next financial year, we are very worried about the long-term impact that Federal Government cuts in these areas will have.
“For this reason, we would like to see funds from future budget surpluses ring-fenced to maintain funding for health and education services.”