The Federal Budget and The Vulnerable

Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning, Helga Smit, reflects on the 2015-16 Budget and how it will impact on the most vulnerable in our local community.

The Federal Budget, released amidst much commentary last month, was a vastly different one to the previous year. While the 2014-15 Budget contained little good news for the most vulnerable in our community, there are some positives in the 2015-16 Budget.

The funding for intensive support services for young people at risk of long-term unemployment, the Youth Employment Strategy, is very welcomed following cuts to the Youth Connections program in 2014. The aim of policy should always be to support rather than penalise.

 The funding allocated to the Adult Migrant English Program, with expansion to include holders of temporary humanitarian visas for one year, is also a positive development. The specific funds allocated for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds to access education and employment will assist in building stronger, more inclusive communities.

The 2015-16 Budget includes measures to support the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme as it rolls out across the country as well as a measure for early transition beyond the trial in New South Wales. As an accredited service provider for disabilities in the trial site, it is definitely encouraging to see that more people will benefit sooner and we are eager to utilise the new technology announced to provide the required capabilities to roll out the scheme. Funding for a new JobAccess Gateway to provide a central entry point for disability employment information and services that will be available to people with disability, employers, carers and advocates, is long overdue and will impact positively on the people we assist within our supported accommodation, outreach services and the community.

The Child Care Subsidy is another welcomed budget item, which will assist in allowing more women to enter the workforce.

But it certainly wasn’t all good news. Frustratingly, the Child Care Subsidy is not scheduled to take effect until 1 July 2017. And worryingly, the budget did not include new, practical initiatives to combat homelessness, mental illness and family violence. Practical support is a far more urgent need in tackling family violence than education campaigns – this is a national crisis and must be addressed immediately. Greater access to affordable housing and support services for the homeless are vital and would also help address the family violence crisis. The budget lacked immediate initiatives in mental health areas, another national health issue of ever-increasing proportions.

CatholicCare Social Services Hunter- Manning continues to support the vulnerable and marginalised in a diverse range of services, including counselling for individuals and families, employee assistance counselling, foster care, adoption services, youth support services, disability accommodation and support services, mental health support, parenting support and other family services as well as a refugee service. We will continue to urge the government to focus on investing in people, families and communities, which, in our view, is the best way to build a stronger economy.

CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning has offices in Mayfield, Cardiff, Maitland and Taree. To contact CatholicCare P 4979 1120 or visit

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Helga Smit

Helga Smit is the Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning. Helga is an authority on disability services, Indigenous issues and other social services.

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