Budget number crunch felt by Australia’s most vulnerable
The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Stuart McMillan, has said that, on balance, there was little to rejoice from the 2017 Federal Budget as the most vulnerable were left worse off.
“A two-year freeze on foreign aid, punitive new welfare measures including drug and alcohol testing for the unemployed, and the extension of income management just make life harder for the poor and most vulnerable,” said Mr McMillan.
The National Director of UnitingWorld Rob Floyd has expressed his disappointment and concern about the freeze to foreign aid funding, where over the next four years Australia will spend $303 million less on foreign aid.
“The people who suffer the most here are the millions of people who rely on Australian aid in our region. I’m afraid churches, aid agencies and charities will have to work even harder to close this huge gap that the Government has left,” said Mr Floyd.
Back home, there will be greater costs for higher education. UnitingCare Australia’s National Director Claerwen Little outlined that this increase to student debt as well as the the lack of support for vulnerable youth and harsh compliance measures for job-seekers, placed a heavy burden for the nations future generations.
There were however positives that came out of the budget. Both Mr McMillan and Ms Little welcomed the Government’s plan to raise the Medicare Levy to ensure the full funding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
In the UnitingCare Australia’s 2017-18 Federal Budget Summary Analysis highlighted the positive initiatives supported by the Budget that are key to UCA and the people we serve.
The positive initiatives include:
- Committing to fully funding the NDIS through an increase to the Medicare levy, while protecting low-income earners;
- Removing the freeze on the indexation of Medicare Benefits for GP visits, which will reduce out of pocket medical expenses for families;
- Funding the establishment of the Commonwealth Redress Scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse in institutions;
- Providing $375m over three years for services to address homelessness;
- Providing for modest increases palliative care, mental health and dental care services;
- Supporting the development of social impact investments as a means of funding innovative social services;
- Expanding the delivery of employment programs aimed at parents with young children, indigenous job seekers and older Australians.
There is also an addition of $80 million over four years for psychosocial support for people with a mental illness who don’t qualify for the NDIS, and the $33 million Local Care Workforce Package that will help NDIS and aged care providers recruit and maintain a suitably skilled workforce.
Mr McMillan also welcomed the confirmation in the Budget of a Commonwealth Redress Scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse from July 2018.
“Our hope is that this will become the national scheme recommended by the Royal Commission,” said Mr McMillan.
For more on the on who gained and lost the most in the Federal budget click here.