My Thoughts on Last Week’s NSW Budget.
It was pleasing to see the increased attention to human services in last week’s NSW budget. Whilst there was little in the budget which was specifically targeted to the Hunter region, which is struggling to regain its footing after last month’s storms and the surge in unemployment, there should be benefits to the region if we receive our share of improved state wide funding for the human services sector.
In particular, it was welcoming to see:
- Funding for an additional 1,021 housing units to boost supply of affordable housing across the state;
- An additional $50 million per annum over four years for Out of Home Care services which are struggling to accommodate increasing numbers of children in need of foster care placements;
- Expenditure on mental health and drug and alcohol services increased to $1.7 billion per annum;
- An allocation of $28 million to purchase land for the devolution of large residential centres in the Hunter for people with disability;
- An additional $151 million dollars to disability support agencies to provide individual support packages to their clients in preparation for the NDIS.
What’s missing from the budget is:
- Increased funding to early intervention and prevention services to needy families to stem the ever increasing numbers of children seeking foster care;
- Additional funding for domestic violence services to address epidemic levels of violence in our communities.
The news of a new prison to be built in Grafton is not good news for prisoners as has been reported in some media outlets. This news is an indication that the State Government’s ‘lock up and throw away the key’ approach to criminal justice which is leading to record numbers of inmates in NSW prisons.
A more cost effective option would be to offer non-violent offenders the opportunity to serve out their court order in the community where they can make a contribution rather than be a passive recipient of services in prison.