The announcement of cuts to social services funding in the week before Christmas has been met with outrage by community groups.
From the Public Health Association of Australia:
“In a decidedly un-Christian move, the Australian Government has announced that the Housing and Homelessness Service Improvement and Sector Support grants scheme will not be continuing. The grants scheme was designed to provide support for housing and homelessness through research, peak bodies, innovative projects and emerging Australian Government priorities,” said Melanie Walker, Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the PHAA. “This decision will have a huge impact on the capacity of the sector to respond to homelessness and move people into more stable housing. One day after being announced as the new Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison has apparently become the Grinch that stole Christmas for some of the most vulnerable members of our community. ”
ACOSS have expressed “deep concern”. CEO Dr Casandra Goldie stated:
“We know that 80% of frontline agencies are struggling to meet growing demand for services with 2.5 million people now living below the poverty line. Most of them have been living in a state of uncertainty since the budget decision to withdraw around a quarter of a billion dollars from the Department of Social Services portfolio. Now we are finding out that the very groups that advocate for those services, and the people living in poverty and disadvantage that they represent, will be shut down in the new year.
“This is a major blow to a sector that makes an enormous contribution to our society, not only in providing a lifeline for people and communities in need, but evidence and policy advice to government.
“A strong, independent civil society is essential to a functioning democracy. Defunding these expert voices clearly diminishes our capacity to represent and advocate for the people that we are here to assist. Governments need fearless and frank advice, now arguably more than ever.”
In a combined statement, ten community groups receiving cuts noted that they ” represent over 90% of Australians with disability and 83% of the identified disability groups in Australia had had their funding cut. The organisations have over 200,000 supporters, including 140 organisations, consumer groups, service providers and carer associations.”
“Organisations with over 200 combined years of expertise will be forced to shut their doors in three months time – leaving people who are blind, deaf, hearing impaired, people with intellectual disability, people with brain injury, people with autism and people with physical disabilities with no voice and no specialist representation”, said spokesperson Mr Matthew Wright.
‘The biggest losers will be the poor, the disadvantaged and those experiencing homelessness. They and the people who assist them will be deprived of a voice while the Prime Minister is “strengthening our economy” and “getting the Budget back under control”.’