2024 ACT Budget lacks decisive action to meet cost-of-living crisis

25 June 2024

Decisive action is required to help Canberrans doing it tough through the cost-of-living crisis. While the ACT Budget contains some welcome cost-of-living relief measures, the Budget as a whole does not sufficiently emphasise or help people being pushed to the economic margins.

To be most effective for Canberrans in need, the Budget needed to target investment in equity through four priority areas: cost-of-living, housing and homelessness, self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and support for the community sector.

“We welcome the Government’s focus on the cost-of-living in the ACT Budget. We appreciate the cost-of-living measures targeted to those doing it toughest, including rent relief, emergency financial aid and food relief. But the scale of investment needs to be increased given the extreme challenges faced by those experiencing poverty during the cost-of-living crisis,” said Dr Devin Bowles, CEO of ACTCOSS.

“Energy is one of the best levers the ACT Government has, and to its credit, the Government increased its targeted energy assistance,” said Dr Bowles.

“Housing costs are by the far the biggest cost-of-living pressure for low-income households, and for struggling Canberrans the modest cost-of-living relief announced in today’s budget will be eclipsed by unaffordable rental costs.

“Despite some modest funding for housing and homelessness assistance, the level of investment does match the scale of the ACT’s housing affordability crisis, and without substantial additional investment we will continue to see social housing decline as a proportion of overall housing stock in the ACT.

“We know that housing is a substantial driver of the cost-of-living crisis and over this term of Government, the percentage of public housing as a proportion of overall housing stock has continued to fall, while at the same time the public housing waiting list has grown by 34 per cent.

“Investing in the ACT’s Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations is an essential step to enable reconciliation and to close the gap. ACTCOSS welcomes the Government’s investment of $4.2 million over the next three years to support Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations,” said Dr Bowles.

“The community urgently requires development of both a disability and housing Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation as a priority given the dire situation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face in the community regarding these essential services,” said Ms Patrice Soward, Head of the Gulanga Program.

“As the Aboriginal Community Controlled sector expands, opportunities for additional funding provision will increase. This includes funding for a peak for the Aboriginal Community Controlled sector if the sector wants one,” said Ms Soward.

Whilst there has been some investment regarding the recommendations of the Our Booris, Our Way Report, there is still a huge amount of work and investment to be undertaken which needs to be a priority of the ACT Government.

“It is essential that the ACT Government continues to support the self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through future investments that align with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement and The National Agreement on Closing the Gap to ensure Priority Reforms and Targets are continuously in the forefront of Government’s mind,” said Ms Soward.

“The community sector has been working hard to assist the community through the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis. Demand for its services has increased dramatically, including from people who have never required assistance before,” said Dr Bowles.

“Investment in the community sector falls well short of what is required, and the people of Canberra will be the ones who ultimately suffer for it.

“The funding adjustment to contracts to cover increasing expenses from inflation did not cover increased superannuation expenses, following a pattern of past years. With just a 3.6% increase, community organisations are again being forced cover expenses that outpace their funding.

“While the Government has increased investment in hospitals to meet population growth, there is no corresponding investment to meet the demand community sector services face from Canberra’s growing population. The sector is serving an ACT population about 30% larger than it was 15 years ago, often without any funding increase to cover that difference.

“We invite the Government to partner with the community sector so that we can work collaboratively to ensure funding reflects the needs of the community and the community sector. This will ultimately enhance the Government’s return on investment,” said Dr Bowles

 ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.
Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Devin Bowles, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0413 435 080. 

Authorised by Dr Devin Bowles for the ACT Council of Social Service

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