According to the NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS), the 2017-18 NSW Government Budget is a missed opportunity to invest in people and stop the growing number of people and families reaching crisis point.
NCOSS CEO, Tracy Howe, said much of this year’s Budget is business as usual and considering the billions of dollars in surplus, the peak body was hoping to see significantly more investment in communities rather than physical infrastructure of roads and buildings.
“NCOSS welcomes certain Budget measures, such as $6 million in funding for community legal centres, $20 million for community-based mental health services, and additional money for oral health services. But with a $4.5 billion surplus, we should be seizing this opportunity to invest in people as well as infrastructure,” said Ms Howe.
Ms Howe said she was particularly disappointed by the limited investment in early intervention initiatives and early learning.
“While we’re spending record amounts on some parts of the social sector, we’re missing the opportunity to make significant investments early on for children and young people at risk of disadvantage. We know that early intervention and early education has the potential to make the most difference.”
Ms Howe was pleased the NSW Government had committed $217 million over four years for the Start Strong reforms to early childhood education, but said more was needed to ensure all children could benefit from this investment.
“We need to increase access to early education for vulnerable children, as there is a lack of supply and investment in these kids. NCOSS called for an Early Childhood Education Fund to ensure services can give children from disadvantaged backgrounds the best possible start to their education, and this has not been met.
“The injection of $4.2 billion into NSW schools is a great initiative that we would like to see mirrored in early education - early childhood education is key to helping break the cycle of poverty early on,” said Ms Howe.
The Budget also fails to address the growing cost of living pressures for people on very low incomes, particularly the sky-rocketing cost of energy.
“Our latest Cost of Living report shows that too many people are having their health, wellbeing and financial stability compromised as they struggle to pay their energy bills, and our current rebates are inadequate to the task of supporting all households’ access to essential services,” said Ms Howe.
The Budget highlights a $4.3 billion housing affordability package with key measures aimed at helping people purchase a home. We also need a substantial injection of new funds to produce more housing options for people doing it tough and new measures to address rental affordability.
“Overall, this year’s Budget was lukewarm, so we look forward to working with the NSW Government over the next year to ensure the next Budget is one that invests in social infrastructure that has a whole of community focus,” concluded Ms Howe.
Media contact: Stephanie Baker, 0416 622 606