Mission Australia’s response to Federal Budget 2021-22
- Disappointing lack of leadership on affordable housing to address grim shortage of low-cost, affordable housing and rising homelessness.
- Welcome the Federal Government’s reinstatement of funding for Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) supplementation for homelessness services.
- Welcome investment in natural disaster recovery. Urge Agency to provide funding to support people on lower incomes who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
- Welcome Government’s focus on reducing unemployment but disappointed by refusal to increase income support to an adequate level while thousands face financial stress and are on the brink of homelessness.
- Welcome investment in preventing domestic and family violence.
- Welcome investment in mental health, yet more must be done to better support the health and wellbeing of young Australians.
- Welcome childcare package as a good first step.
Homelessness and housing
Mission Australia CEO, James Toomey cautioned that the Commonwealth Government’s absence of leadership on measures that are needed at a national level to end homelessness and increase affordable housing will force more people into homelessness.
“The essential social infrastructure of social housing has been ignored yet again while the Federal Government continues to heavily invest in other infrastructure. Where is the leadership and innovation which this issue desperately requires?
“While we acknowledge the Government’s investment in measures to help support people into home ownership, including single parents through the Family Home Guarantee, these do not go far enough to address the structural problems with housing and homelessness in this country.
“The grim shortage of social housing and affordable rentals, high levels of housing stress, punitive rate of JobSeeker and other income support payments and a job market topped up with insecure, short term jobs is triggering a spike in financial distress, housing insecurity and homelessness.
“The recent challenges of bushfires, flooding and the pandemic have reinforced that every Australian needs access to safe, stable accommodation so people can work, access education, connect with their community, look after their wellbeing and live with dignity.
“One of the most effective things that our Federal Government can do to ensure people are safely housed and to prevent people becoming homeless is to create the conditions for innovations which will increase the supply of affordable housing options, including social housing.
“We call for a housing capital aggregator to enable large scale private investment in affordable housing to help end homelessness. This is an idea generated by The Constellation Project, where private investment can be pooled into affordable housing and unlocked by Federal Government co-investment.
“We anticipate that homelessness will rise with the 2021 Census statistics. Yet our Government continues to overlook the needs of at least 116,000 people who are homeless and the thousands more who are on the brink of homelessness while living in severe rental stress amid ongoing pandemic challenges.
There is still no national plan to end homelessness in Australia. We call on the Government to show the necessary leadership to end homelessness by 2030, including a specific target for youth homelessness and homelessness among older people.
“With this absence of leadership on social and affordable housing, our Federal Government has sealed the fate of thousands of people on the lowest incomes who will be pushed into homelessness and insecure living conditions.
“While the increased ‘in home’ aged care funding will go a long way to help older people stay at home while receiving the care they need, the Federal Government has completely overlooked those without a home. How can you receive home care, if you don’t have a safe, suitable home?
“There are 200,000 people on social housing waiting lists in Australia, yet no leadership or innovation from this Budget to address this growing number.”
Equal Remuneration Order
Mission Australia CEO, James Toomey said: “We are pleased to welcome the Federal Government’s commitment to renew the Federal funding for Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) supplementation for salaries in homelessness services, which was slated to stop in June 2021.
“This investment in equal pay for the next two years secures the jobs of up to 500 frontline workers - the majority being women – so they can continue delivering vital services to people facing homelessness at a time of great need and surge in demand.
“With JobKeeper now finished, the JobSeeker payment essentially the same as the old Newstart rate and rental moratoria now ended, our staff are bracing for a rise in demand for these vital homelessness services.”
Natural disaster recovery
Mission Australia CEO, James Toomey said, “It is encouraging to see the establishment of the new National Recovery and Resilience Agency.
“We urge the new Agency to ensure funding helps people who are most vulnerable to natural disasters, given the effects of climate change disproportionately impact people on low incomes and who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
“One of the lessons of recent bushfires, cyclones and flooding is that people experiencing homelessness in disasters and emergency events are greatly impacted by the existing lack of affordable and temporary housing.
Mission Australia recognises that the effects of climate change impact acutely on the most vulnerable members of Australia.
“We hope that the new Agency will mitigate impacts of future weather events on people on the lowest incomes by paving the way to build more well-planned, well-designed social housing stock that is not built in high risk natural disaster zones.”
Employment and income support
Mission Australia CEO, James Toomey said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to reducing unemployment, particularly the extra investment in the care workforce. We recognise its investment in training and skills development measures for people who are unemployed.
“However, we remain cautious about how these training opportunities will be administered. They must not become part of a punitive system of mandatory requirements that will punish rather than support those who are unemployed.
“This training must also lead to jobs. Currently, there is one job for every seven people seeking work, which no amount of training will remedy.
“For those who are reliant on income support payments while they are looking for work, we are not surprised by the Federal Government’s ongoing refusal to increase income support to a permanent, adequate level while thousands of people are struggling with financial stress and are homeless or on the brink of homelessness.
“It seems clear now that the Federal Government regards JobSeeker as a punitive payment rather than a welfare payment designed to protect people from poverty.
“Many people who are surviving on income support payments during periods of unemployment are facing enormous anguish and uncertainty. The current JobSeeker rate of around $44 a day is a recipe for disaster for thousands of Australians. It is profoundly inadequate and simply does not help get people back into work.
Mission Australia is one of many advocates calling on the Government to ensure JobSeeker and other related allowances are increased to an adequate rate so people aren’t forced into poverty and homelessness.
“People need the certainty they’ll have enough money to regain control of their lives, wellbeing and finances, put food on the table and remain safely housed while accessing essential resources they need to seek and be ready for work.”
Domestic and family violence and homelessness
Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said: “At a time when COVID-19 restrictions and impacts have caused an increase in the frequency and severity of domestic and family violence, we welcome the Government’s investment in preventing and addressing domestic and family violence through a range of measures including emergency accommodation.
With domestic and family violence continuing to be one of the key drivers of homelessness in Australia for women and their children, there still remains an urgent need for investment in more permanent housing options for victim-survivors and their children so that they’re not pushed into homelessness when escaping violent situations.
“Women are often faced with homelessness, or needing to relocate hundreds of kilometres away, or staying in a violent household because there are not enough long-term housing options. Put simply, insufficient supply of suitable housing is putting the lives of women and children at risk.
“Emergency accommodation provides immediate safety, but there is a severe shortage of permanent safe homes for victim-survivors and their children to prevent and address homelessness when violence occurs. We need creative ways to supply more social and affordable homes as a matter of urgency.
“Now more than ever, further investment in community services is also very much needed so the necessary and essential wrap-around, holistic supports are immediately available and accessible for people escaping domestic and family violence.”
Youth mental health
Mission Australia CEO, James Toomey said: “We are very encouraged to see the Federal Budget’s investment in supporting the mental health of Australians.
“While we know that more is needed to establish the mental health infrastructure that Australia sorely needs, we warmly welcome funds going towards a range of measures including more Headspace facilities, suicide prevention programs, digital mental health services and an update to the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy.
We hope to see further concerted efforts to address mental health concerns among Australians – especially for the young Australians we work closely with whose mental health has been particularly affected by the events of the past year.
“Even before COVID-19, the prevalence of mental health concerns among young Australians was profoundly concerning.
“The pandemic has added multiple stressors for young people, including uncertainty about their future, social isolation, increasing rates of unemployment and financial distress.
“Although a significant amount of funding has been devoted to mental health in response to COVID-19, ongoing need is anticipated and funding must keep up with demand. The estimated investment needed to address the immediate impacts of COVID-19 on Australia’s mental health and contribute to the longer-term task of ongoing national mental health reform is $3.7 billion over four years.
“We support the Government’s announcement of further investment in mental health, but note that there are still large gaps in the service system and that even greater investment is needed to match service provision to demand.”
Mission Australia CEO, James Toomey said: “The Government’s newly announced childcare package is a very welcome stride towards early childhood education and care reform.
“As a founding member of the Goodstart consortium, Mission Australia welcomes the Government’s contribution to giving children the best possible start in life through more affordable access to quality education and care. Affordable early learning also reduces barriers for parents to return to work and is an important contributor toward a more fair and prosperous Australia.”
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