Expert panel to develop ACT Targeted Assistance Strategy

Expert panel to develop ACT Targeted Assistance Strategy

ACT Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, has announced that Uniting Church minister Gordon Ramsay will Chair the Expert Panel she has commissioned to develop a new ACT Targeted Assistance Strategy, which will examine options for further supporting Canberrans struggling with their daily expenses.

“The Expert Panel will examine the current range of ACT Government programs and policies designed to assist lower income Canberrans, such as our concessions program, and incorporate into its analysis the initiatives that came out of the September Community Roundtable,” the Chief Minister said.

“The panel has been asked to develop an evidence-based ACT Targeted Assistance Strategy that includes policy options for the Government as well as community, market and individual responses, and report back to me by the end of March.

“This strategy is in addition to the initiatives that I announced earlier today. These include enhancing food bank arrangements, developing arrangements to extend the benefits of the Government’s bulk buying power, additional funding for financial counselling services, a new community support website, developing flexible payment options for fines and other charges, and low-interest loans.

“I can’t think of a better person to Chair the Expert Panel than Gordon Ramsay, who is the Team Leader at UnitingCare Kippax and a well-recognised advocate for social inclusion in the ACT,” the Chief Minister said.

“He comes to this role with a wealth of experience in the community sector having served on the General Committee of ACTCOSS, as a former member of both the ACT Community Inclusion Board and ACT Anti-Poverty Week (2006-2010).”

Community Services Minister Joy Burch said, “The ACT Government already works very well in partnership with the community sector to deliver services and improve outcomes for the vulnerable in our community.

“I look forward to working with Mr Ramsay and other community sector leaders to continue to enhance Government services and programs.”

Mr Ramsay said there were too many Canberrans doing it tough and it was the responsibility of the whole community — Government, business and individuals — to ensure that everyone had the opportunity to live a decent life.

“This panel provides an excellent opportunity to make a real difference for people who are currently missing out,” Mr Ramsay said.

“I welcome the ACT Government’s commitment to make good ideas become a reality to improve the lives of vulnerable Canberrans.

“I look forward to chairing the panel and working with the community over the coming months,” Mr Ramsay said.

The Terms of Reference for the ACT Targeted Assistance Strategy are:

  • Examine the current range of ACT Government programs and policies designed to assist lower income Canberrans. These measures would include concessions, community service obligations, regulations and legislation as well as contracted non-government organisation provided services and in-kind assistance.
  • Incorporate into the analysis, the initiatives to come out of the September 2011 Community Roundtable.
  • Assess the effectiveness of current responses for lower income Canberrans using relevant data on household types, income and population groups as well as economic, income, housing and other cost of living data.
  • Take note of factors outside the control of the ACT Government, such as the Commonwealth Government’s role in determining taxation rates, pensions and allowances and other income and labour market policies and fiscal strategy.
  • Develop an evidence-based ACT Targeted Assistance Strategy that includes policy options for the Government as well as community, market and individual responses.

Financial counselling

Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, also announced that the Government would be moving to implement a range of ideas put forward at the recent Community Roundtable, including developing options for low-interest loans as part of the Government’s banking contract and boosting funding for financial counselling services.

She said that, in response to the issues raised by participants at the Roundtable, the Government has decided to:

  • develop flexible payment options for fees and charges for those Canberrans struggling to meet their everyday costs to help manage their household bills by smoothing out the peaks. This includes extending the period of time in which fines have to be paid by up to 6 months to ensure unexpected costs don’t prevent people from paying for essentials;
  • include access to socially responsible banking products such as low-interest loans as part of the ACT Government Banking contract;
  • develop arrangements to extend the benefits of Government purchasing power to assist non-government organisations;
  • develop options to enhance current food bank arrangements and access in the ACT;
  • increase funding for financial counselling services by $60,000 over two years;
  • establish a community support website that provides information on the wide range of supports and concessions currently available; and
  • work with our community sector partners to streamline service purchasing arrangements, reduce overheads and increase flexibility in the provision of financial and material aid.

“Bureau of Statistics figures suggest that the ACT is a comparatively affluent community with Canberrans earning above-average salaries,” the Chief Minister said.

“However, this measure can mask underlying areas of disadvantage and hide the true extent of need in our community.

“That’s why it’s important that experts in the field undertake this in-depth analysis so we can be confident that the Government, the community sector, and businesses are targeting support in a way that is effective, equitable and efficient.”

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