Wesley Mission: Commonwealth Budget reaction

Wesley Mission: Commonwealth Budget reaction

The Government has delivered on a range of income measures and key community and aged care initiatives but has failed to sustain some of Australia’s most vulnerable families in the 2012-13 Commonwealth Budget, according to Wesley Mission.

The budget will be good news to many low income families. The revamped education tax rebate will help numerous struggling families with education expenses.

“Too often the children of low income and working poor families are excluded from school activities, like excursions, performing arts, and sport because of the cost,” the CEO of Wesley Mission the Rev. Dr Keith Garner said.

“This is good news for the many families we support through our child, family and homeless services.

“Many of the families we see struggle with keeping their children engaged with the education sector and often feel excluded from participation in mainstream activities.”

Under the scheme, families entitled to Family Tax Benefit A receive $410 for each child in primary school, and $820 for each child in high school.

Dr Garner said private dental insurance was prohibitive for most low income earners and the $515.3 million dentistry package was long overdue.

Some $345.9 million of the package will be used to treat some of the 400,000 patients on dental waiting lists.

“Many people see dental health as unrelated to mental health but in Wesley Mission’s experience the two are closely related,” Dr Garner said. “Every day Wesley Mission deals with hundreds of people who are homeless and are struggling with mental health issues.

“Many have dental health problems which have gone untreated for years. Pain, discomfort and stigma feed into depression, excluding some from employment and long term security.”

The $3.7 billion over five years to revamp aged care signals a change of focus from residential living to age care in the home.

“The $268 million to assist people diagnosed with dementia is timely as the prevalence of dementia is expected to climb dramatically over the next 10 years,” Dr Garner said.

“The $1.2 billion that the Government has invested into the workforce is long overdue. The need for wages and conditions to improve is imperative in attracting and retaining a skilled workforce.

“The increase in funding for palliative care gives comfort to older Australians that they will be able to age and die well in the location of their choice.”

From March 2013 income support recipients will receive a tax-free, twice-yearly Supplementary Allowance to meet unexpected costs such as dental care, medical expenses or motor vehicle costs. Wesley Mission research in three previous reports on financial stress found that the percentage of people unable to meet a one off expense of $2000 had grown significantly. In a 2006 Wesley Report six in 10 households would have been able to find $2,000 in an emergency; this had declined to only four in 10 by 2010.

Wesley Mission is also pleased that the Government has committed $1 billion over the next four years to honour its commitment to roll out the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The scheme will reach 10,000 in its first year and 20,000 in its second year.

However the transfer of single parents from parenting support payments to the Newstart Allowance once their youngest child turns eight may save the government about $700 million but it will cost families and the community in the long-term. This will amount to a cut of $118.70 a fortnight in the base rate for single parents.

“It is obvious sole parents have been singled out in this budget but pushing them on to Newstart Allowance in the hope they will get work is unrealistic and unacceptable,” Dr Garner said.

“Many of these parents have been out of the workforce for some time and the hope of gaining full-time employment has diminished. Most will be trying to find work in a shrinking part-time and casual employment market, particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors which have traditionally absorbed low-paid, unskilled and semi-skilled labour. This will only put sole parents under pressure and many will find that any income derived from employment will be gobbled up by child care fees.

“Sole parents are among the most vulnerable groups in the community and deserve appropriate targeted assistance, particularly if they are making the transition to employment. They are one of the most at risk groups for financial stress and homelessness.”

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