UnitingCare Australia Associate National Director Martin Cowling has said that the 2016 Budget paints a selective picture of living within our means, with cuts to health, aged care and disability payments outweighing new spending in these areas by at least $1 billion over four years.
Martin said it was pleasing that the Budget contains three positive measures for which UnitingCare has been advocating for some time.
“We particularly welcome the Youth Jobs PaTH program and will work with the Government through its Try, Test and Learn Fund.
“It is also pleasing that the Government is committing to programs designed to help those most at risk of long term welfare dependency and that the PaTH program contains a strong focus on equipping young people with essential work skills.
“UnitingCare strongly welcomes the reforms to superannuation tax concessions which will deliver a critical $6 billion revenue stream. We have been calling for these for almost a decade” said Martin.
UnitingCare acknowledges the need for tax measures to help stimulate the economy, but the aggregate result of this budget has been to reduce taxes for the most well off while cutting funding for vulnerable groups.
“New spending on public hospitals is offset by $3.2 billion in cuts to funding for aged care providers, family support, and Medicare benefits,” he said.
“We welcome the funding for the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. However, it is concerning that the funding is sourced from savings in other areas of social welfare, including cuts to the Disability Support Pension and Carers Allowance.
“The ‘more efficient targeting’ of social welfare expenditure is simply code for further welfare cuts for the most vulnerable – with more than two billion dollars removed from the welfare system over five years.
“UnitingCare Australia fully supports responsible fiscal policy but that means recognising that well designed tax and spending programs can address disadvantage and invest in people while also promoting jobs and growth,” Martin said.
Martin said the failure to address unjustified tax concessions, such as negative gearing, is disappointing.
“Negative gearing represents a tax subsidy for an investment that is designed to make a loss, year after year, and do little or nothing to promote jobs and growth.
“UnitingCare welcomes the funding for family and domestic violence and protecting Australia’s children, including the trial of intensive case management for young people exiting out-of-home care.
“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has highlighted the vulnerability of children in the out-of-home care system, and supporting them to make the transition out of care is critical.
As one of Australia’s largest providers of aged care services, UnitingCare is very concerned at the cuts to aged care provider funding.
“The Government has removed $1.1 billion in funding for aged care, claiming the growth in expenditure was greater than expected. With an ageing population, the growth in expenditure reflects growth in demand and these cuts may create a funding gap that the transitional funding will do little to address,” Martin said.
“Good economic policy and good social policy go hand in hand. Jobs, growth, tax reform, and investment in people are all needed to drive full participation in the economy and communities.
“We will continue to work with the Government and Opposition parties to get this balance right as we head towards the election,” he said.
The UnitingCare network is one of Australia’s largest providers of social services, providing assistance to one in eight Australians and employing 40,000 staff, supported by 30,000 volunteers at 1,600 sites across urban, rural, and remote areas.