2019 Federal Budget – Leaving struggling families and children behind

This week, the Federal Government demonstrated a disturbing lack of commitment to struggling Australian families and children. We are deeply concerned by the Federal Government’s lack of vision for how it will support Australian children, young people and families experiencing disadvantage.

Despite growing calls from all sides of politics, the Government has again stayed silent on raising Newstart and Youth Allowance.

Instead of ensuring that individuals with a disability are supported to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the Government has taken $1.6 billion from the NDIS in an attempt to return the budget to surplus sooner.

At a time when unprecedented numbers of children are entering out-of-home care, we are disappointed that the Government has not invested sufficiently in prevention and early intervention initiatives to help families that are struggling to stay together.


What’s the big picture?

We welcome several initiatives, including:

  • $528 million to fund a Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability
  • $328 million for women and children fleeing family violence and;
  • $263.3 million to improve access to youth mental health services across the national headspace network


What’s needed?

We believe that the Government is not doing enough to stop the cycle of social disadvantage. We want a new Government to commit significant funding, in partnership with the states and territories, to adequately and consistently fund early intervention and prevention services that are proven to be effective in keeping families together.

We are disappointed that there is still inadequate funding provided to social and public housing initiatives and that there is no increase to Commonwealth Rental Assistance.

Having a safe and secure place to call home is the first step to achieving stability and enabling independence.  

Of particular concern is the Government’s decision to expand the use of cashless debit cards. This program unfairly targets First Nation communities, and is out of step with the body of evidence that highlights that cashless debit cards have little to no impact on improving outcomes for vulnerable communities.

All in all, this week’s budget shows that the Government is out of step with the expectations of a community that wants to see a strong safety net for all individuals and families experiencing hardship.

In the lead up to the federal election, we call on our next government to prioritise children and families by ensuring that their needs are factored into government decision making.


What are the nuts and bolts?

Overall, the budget forecasts a $4.2 billion deficit this year, before a $7.2 billion surplus by 2019-2020. Specific measures announced in the 2019 Federal Budget included:

Disability:     

  • Funding to support the work of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability – $527.9 million over the four years from 2022-2023

Tax:

  • Person Income Tax Plan – immediate tax relief for low and middle income earners of up to $1,080 for singles or up to $2160 for dual income families. The Government’s seven-year tax plan will reduce revenue by $158 billion
  • Expanding access to the instant asset write-off for small and medium sized businesses

Family Violence:

  • $328 million for women and children fleeing family violence over four years. Funding includes: $64 million to support the 1800RESPECT hotline; $75 million to provide emergency accommodation for women and their children escaping domestic and family violence; $110 million to improve a range of domestic and family violence support services; $35 million to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by violence, including women and children in remote areas; $7 million to expand the Recognise, Respond and Refer pilot program for referral
  • Family Advocacy and Support Services – $7.8 million over three years to employ dedicated men’s socials support workers in FASS locations to work with male victims and alleged perpetrators of family violence involved in family law matters

Preventing and Responding to Child Sexual Abuse:

  • National museum and memorial for Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse – $2.5 million in 2019-2020 for 1) stakeholder consultation on potential options and formation of a national museum or memorial for victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse; and 2) to undertake preparatory work for a national orphanages museum, including engagement with states and territories on funding arrangements
  • National Public Register of Child Sex Offenders – $7.8 million over 4 years from 2019-2020 to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to establish and host a publicly available National Public Register of Child Sex Offenders

Mental Health:

  • $43.9 million over seven years from 2018-19 for a new Perinatal Mental Health and Wellbeing Program to support the mental health of expectant and new parents by improving access to mental health support and treatment services and increasing community awareness of the mental health issues experienced by parents
  • $109.7 million to extend the Early Youth Psychosis Services program for an additional two years from 2019-2020 (previously announced)
  • $263.3 million over seven years from 2018-2019 to improve access to youth mental health services across the national headspace network

Welfare:

  • Introduction of new data matching technology to prevent over payments for working income support recipients
  • Energy Assistance Payment – small one-off payment of up to $125 for low income households to help with their rising energy bills. Costs a total of $284.4 million over two years, this will automatically be paid to all pensioners and carers (pending passage of legislation)
  • Extension of the Cashless Debit Card – additional funding of $128 million will see a further 22,500 people transition onto the card

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