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Report from NCOSS Deputy CEO, John Mikelsons

One of the critical parts of how NCOSS contributes to national debates on how we end poverty here in Australia is via the Council of Social Service Network. The Network held its quarterly meeting of CEOs last week, which was a great opportunity to talk about some of the key issues for people on low incomes, and key points of influence. Three key issues we talked about were housing affordability and homelessness, child poverty and the federal election.

Housing affordability and homelessness are not just Sydney issues (although it hits NSW the hardest) – they are felt around the country. As a network we continue to coordinate our effort on this issue, and we were pleased to visit Foyer Oxford – an interesting initiative that provides young people with fully self-contained transitional housing for up to two years, combined with personalised social supports and opportunities to access employment, education and training. I also visited Breathing Space, a brilliant 12 week residential men’s behaviour change program that intervenes with perpetrators of violence against women. This model must absolutely be a part of the NSW Government’s Blueprint.

Child poverty is the focus of NCOSS’ 1 in 7 campaign. But despite any work we do to ensure that children who experience poverty don’t have their lives defined by it, we must also work to end it, and ending child poverty has to involve an increase to family payments. ACOSS is working on this issue right now, and we look forward to including a recommendation about an increase to family payments in our 1 in 7 work, and our local federal election campaign.

The federal election is also almost upon us – and for the first time in a long time, housing affordability, poverty, and inequality are being talked about! That’s great news, and highlights the great job the sector and others have done raising these issues on the agenda. ACOSS has already developed a great policy blueprint for the election in their Budget Priority Statement. As a sector, we need to be talking to candidates and politicians locally about why these policy prescriptions are so important to people experiencing poverty.

We talked about a lot of other issues, including the lack of certainty in funding for disability advocacy in virtually every state, some of the challenges with funding for homelessness services, how we support organisations and ensure they are competitive, and the Sustainable Development Goals and how they will impact on our work. There is a lot going on that affects people experiencing poverty, and NCOSS is at the heart of those debates!