Budget not reflecting goodwill of Australians

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Samaritans media statement following Federal Budget announcement on evening of May 8:

While last night’s Federal Budget has revealed positive benefits for many Australians, local service provider Samaritans is concerned about outcomes proposed for Australia’s most vulnerable people.

“There are indeed winners from the 2018 Budget, and these are largely from the election
battlegrounds of middle-income families and older Australians,” Samaritans Acting CEO, Brad Webb, said.

“The Budget promises tax relief to more than half of the voting population. This year’s Budget was clearly positioned for an impending election. Whether the Budget will deliver its underlying aim remains to be seen,” he said.

Of the funding announcements last night, Samaritans welcomes the commitment of the Turnbull Government to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It also welcomes the range of support packages for older Australians and the significant increase in mental health services and research.

However, Samaritans believes that the personal income tax cuts announced in the Budget have not captured public sentiment as to the importance of supporting vulnerable Australians who are most in need of our support.

“Yesterday’s Guardian Essential Poll suggests that Australians are much more focused on a civil society, than on personal tax cuts. Compared to last year’s poll, there has been a strong increase in the number of Australians calling for increased spending on assistance to the unemployed, more affordable housing, and assistance to the needy in Australia.

“This is our experience of the people in our local communities. Samaritans is fortunate to work with people who are interested and invested in supporting the more vulnerable members of our
community and assisting them to make progress in their lives,” Mr Webb said.

Samaritans is disappointed the Budget has missed opportunities to fund new affordable housing measures, and to increase benefits, particularly Newstart.

“The Government has not heard the repeated calls to support people who are living below the
poverty line. Newstart is not a lifestyle choice – it barely covers the cost of basic essentials and this pressure is passed on to support services such as our Emergency Relief teams,” Mr Webb said.

There were a number of other Budget measures that Samaritans expects will further disadvantage those most in need of support.

“The Budget has committed to penalising people on a Disability Support Pension by suspending it if they go to prison. We know at Samaritans that people need support coming out of prison to get their life back on track and reduce the chance they’ll reoffend. These measures will see people trapped in an ongoing cycle of disadvantage,” Mr Webb, said.

“Furthermore, a proposal to deduct fines from a person’s social security payment – their only
income to pay for housing, food and transport – will only increase hardship for people in families in already complex and challenging circumstances. We need continued investment in the services that prevent people from falling into these difficult situations, not punishing people into deeper poverty.

“As we head into elections in NSW and Federally, we reiterate our call to both Government and
Opposition to consider the needs of all Australians in their policy and budget settings,” he said.

Blog: Samaritans pre-Budget hopes

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison will hand down the Budget at 7:30pm on May 8 and Samaritans would like to see the Turnbull Government address some of the current funding policies that are having an impact on the people Samaritans support.

We’re calling on the Federal Government to:

  • Provide a strengthened safety net for people doing it tough, including a restructure / increase to income support such as Newstart and Youth Allowance.
  • Review the way Rent Assistance is calculated to make eligibility and payments fairer.
  • Commit to security of funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

 Provide a strengthened safety net for people doing it tough, including a restructure / increase to income support such as Newstart and Youth Allowance.

Every day our teams work with people who are trying to get ahead in their lives. We see the direct impact of government policy – both good and bad – on these people. This year’s Budget is a real opportunity for the Turnbull Government to address some imbalances in current policy.

There are 3 million Australians living in poverty. Increasing income support is crucial to pull Australians on the lowest income above the poverty line.

Newstart is designed to provide temporary support to people looking for work, but it cannot cover the cost of basic essentials such as housing, groceries, energy, transport and clothing. Most people on Newstart are not making this as a lifestyle choice.

Chris Richardson, a senior partner at Deloitte Access Economics and renowned budget conservative, has noted that Newstart hadn’t kept up with national living standards for more than a quarter of a century and, as the payment shrank, a significant number of recipients became stuck on it. We echo his calls on the Turnbull government to increase the Newstart payment by $50 a week in this week’s budget.

Review the way Rent Assistance is calculated to make eligibility and payments fairer

Many locals come to Samaritans for emergency food and financial relief, with most of these people being in rental stress due to their income and cost of living not adding up.

Recent research by Samaritans and Anglicare agencies around the country shows a dismal outlook for people trying to find affordable housing on a low income. Samaritans supports the Everybody’s Home campaign and calling for a review of Rental Assistance to make eligibility and payments fairer.

In this week’s Budget we want to see an increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance while more social and affordable housing is being built.

We also hope there’s provision to renters of a catch up increase of 30% or about $20 a week for those in the highest rental stress.

Commit to security of funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The NDIS is a crucial investment in the lives of Australian people living with disability. We would like the Government to remove any uncertainty about the security of funding for the NDIS, by reiterating its guarantee the NDIS will be fully funded, and to outline to the Australian people how it will be funded.

A post-Budget statement will be released by Samaritans following the Budget announcement on May 8.