The 2021-22 NSW Budget comes at a critical time. The NSW economic recovery while strong, remains uneven. It is widely acknowledged that this crisis has exposed the growing inequality in NSW, and that many families and vulnerable people continue to struggle.
At the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, the NSW Government responded swiftly and invested significantly to address the immediate impacts of the recession. These investments, along with the increased support provided by the federal government, have been critical to supporting the people of NSW.
However, as the bulk of the critical supports provided by the government have been withdrawn, many people in NSW are facing significant hardship.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the community sector and the people of NSW, have risen to the challenges posed by the pandemic. This Budget provides some relief for critical services that have faced increased demand, but like all frontline services they are increasingly stretched and further support is needed.
This crisis has highlighted the importance of mental health. The establishment of mental health response teams to provide vital support to vulnerable young people experiencing or at risk of severe mental distress is a welcome initiative.
Investments in preventing domestic and family violence included in the Budget are a promising start. However, significantly greater investment is required to address domestic and family violence, and the social and economic harm that it imposes on our communities.
We know that investment in social housing is critical to supporting women and children to leave violent relationships and get their lives back on track; as it is to ensure that homelessness services are not turning away people in dire need or are not able to assist people into long term housing once they exit crisis accommodation.
The commitment of $250 million to construct, refurbish and renew Aboriginal housing is also welcome, albeit long overdue. While a good start, further investment in building new housing is necessary, with investments in maintenance reflecting no more than business as usual.
The investment of $20.7 million in additional funding to expand the Together Home program by an additional 250 additional packages is positive and will support rough sleepers to exit homelessness and move into permanent and supported housing. However, this Budget does not provide a comprehensive solution to the enduring challenge of housing affordability and increasing rates of homelessness in NSW.
No new investment in social housing, despite the collective calls of advocates and economists to invest in more than 5,000 homes a year, is a failure. Moreover, the commitment to the construction of 800 new homes, does not even come close to providing a home for the close to 40,000 people in NSW that experience homelessness.
Finally, while this Budget does deliver some positive initial steps, far more needs to be done to ensure that as we build back from COVID-19, we are not building a more unequal NSW.
Read our analysis on specific policy areas below: