UnitingCare Australia’s National Director Claerwen Little says despite some constructive measures the 2017 Federal Budget needed to do more for the most vulnerable Australians.
“The commitment to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) by an increase in the Medicare levy is a significant measure and a landmark worthy of celebrating,” said Ms Little.
“The full funding of the NDIS from 2020 will afford greater dignity and independence to Australians with permanent and significant disability.”
But Ms Little lamented punitive measures targeting the unemployed and welfare recipients.
“The very worst elements of this Budget impose harsh compliance measures on jobseekers for no apparent benefit to their employment prospects.
“The language of three strikes and demerits in the Government’s proposed welfare reform effectively make it a crime to be unemployed.”
She said the needs of Australia’s young people had been left out of the 2017 Budget.
“Greater costs for higher education and a lack of support for our most vulnerable young people are a heavy burden for those who hold the future of our nation in their hands.
“We are concerned at the income management measures the Government has committed to extending, along with the cashless debit card. The Government has not explained how this will cost-effectively assist communities to gain the capacity to manage their income long term.”
Ms Little welcomed the 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.
Other Budget initiatives she welcomed include an ongoing National Housing and Homelessness Agreement and $20.2 million trial of social impact investing along with the confirmation of a Commonwealth Redress Scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse from July 2018.
Ms Little also acknowledged the Government’s commitment to Aged Care through the extension of the Commonwealth Home Support Program and Regional Assessment Services funding arrangements.
“The establishment of an industry-led aged care workforce taskforce, and support for the My Aged Care online platform are positive steps in the Government’s ongoing aged care reforms.”
A full Budget Overview will be published on the unitingcare.org.au website on 10 May 2017.