UnitingCare Australia – 2019-20 Pre-Budget Submission
UnitingCare Australia is pleased to provide this submission to inform development of the 2019-20 Federal Budget.
Australia has experienced 27 years of continuous economic growth. However, the benefits of growth have flowed disproportionately to higher income earners and to the wealthy. Wages below the median have stagnated. Underemployment and insecure, low quality jobs are on the increase. Unacceptable rates of poverty and child social exclusion persist. Housing affordability is at an all-time low and home ownership, the jewel in the crown of Australia’s social policy egalitarian accomplishments, is falling.
Ambitious social reforms have been under resourced: Closing the Gap targets have not been achieved, and a mechanism to provide badly needed Indigenous advice to Parliament has been summarily dismissed. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which gave so much hope for people living with a disability, has assisted many but disappointed others. Subsidies for early childhood care, education and aged care have attracted a growing number of for-profit providers, but marketisation has failed to improve the supply of accessible, high quality services for the most disadvantaged. Inequality and the inequities in health and education outcomes that arise from it has increased, as a result of policies that reduce tax and transfer progressivity and therefore government revenue.
Australia became a signatory to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 but has yet to express this commitment in a whole of government approach to inclusive, sustainable growth. UnitingCare Australia urges the Government to adopt a policy framework and Budget initiatives that would promote inclusive, sustainable growth and enable Australia to achieve its SDG targets by 2030.
UnitingCare Australia welcomes the opportunity to submit to the Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into Credit and financial services targeted at Australians at risk of financial hardship.
The UnitingCare network consists of a number of member organisations providing a range of social services to Australia’s most vulnerable, with 10 of those organisations involved in the provision of Financial Counselling Services across all Australian States and Territories. Our Financial Counselling services possess significant expertise and experience in the causes, consequences alleviation of financial stress and has an extensive history engaging with financially vulnerable cohorts target by payday lenders and consumer lease providers.
UnitingCare Australia welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018 (CDCT or ‘the trial’).
In our Submission of 29 September 2017 on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, we said:
It is our view that evaluation of the card’s implementation in the trial sites provides
inconclusive evidence regarding the effectiveness of the card’s introduction alone in
reducing levels of harm associated with alcohol consumption, drug use and gambling within the target communities.
and named the following issues of concern:
• Insufficient information regarding how people using the card will be managed off it;
• Stigmatisation of card users;
• Limited ability of card users to purchase goods that are second-hand due to
quarantining introduced with the card, preventing people’s access to cheaper cash
• Complexity of evaluating the card’s effectiveness when card users may move out of
the trial locations. The ORIMA evaluation does not include a longitudinal study that
tracks trends based on, and following through with, the initial sample group;
• Flawed assumptions underpinning the card, particularly that alcohol, drug use and
gambling are the primary causes of financial insecurity and poverty in the target communities.
UnitingCare Australia Submission to the Senate Committee Inquiry on Accessibility and Quality of Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Australia May 2018UnitingCare Australia Submission to the Senate Committee Inquiry on Accessibility and Quality of Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Australia May 2018
We would like to reiterate the concerns around the establishment of a drug testing trial which we raised in our Submission to the Senate Committee Inquiry on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017. While we were pleased that the drug testing trial was removed from that original Bill, we are disappointed that the initiative has been reintroduced under a separate Bill with little consideration of the feedback provided by ourselves and others in the community service and health sector.