The government only has one budget left to deliver on all of its election promises and should take the opportunity to fund ambitious community projects, according to the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS).
ACTCOSS policy manager Craig Wallace says more funding for community services and a greater focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination should be the centre-piece of the next budget.
“The next ACT Budget needs to start being ambitious for non-government services in the community sector, which is a growing share of the ACT economy and an employer with a proven track record in making key differences in people’s lives at the prevention and sub-acute end,” Mr Wallace said.
“Across all community services, further investment is needed in workforce development, community facilities, fleet and ICT infrastructure that enables high quality, effective, accountable service provision.”
The ACTCOSS budget submission outlined 50 funding suggestions for the Barr Government to include in its last budget before the Territory’s election in October next year.
The list of recommendations includes funds to establish a Ngunnawal Language Centre to revive and teach the Ngunnawal language, as well as investment in a specialist service for indigenous women escaping and recovering from sexual or domestic violence.
“This submission calls for greater investment to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination, including through funding housing provision by an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisation in the ACT,” Mr Wallace said.
The submission is calling for the delivery of specialist housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people which would then be overseen by an indigenous community organisation.
On top of specialist housing, ACTCOSS also wants the government to prioritise getting more Canberrans off the street, urging the government to fund rapid rehousing models for people experiencing homelessness to get them into community housing quickly. It says a dedicated youth homelessness service is also vital.
To help boost affordable housing projects before the next budget, the ACT Government has just announced $645,000 worth of grants that will be given to six organisations to make housing more accessible in the Territory.
The Affordable Housing Innovation Fund just concluded its second round of grants, funding initiatives that will help people with disabilities identify suitable housing, and a program to partner low-income tenants with homeowners with a spare room in exchange for help around the house.
This idea builds on home-sharing initiatives that partner senior citizens or people with a disability with those looking for cheap rent by doing work around the house, and helps to combat mental health issues caused by loneliness in older generations.
Mental health was another big focus for ACTCOSS in its budget submission, urging the government to make it easier for people with disabilities to access mental health services beyond the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
While the government set aside $24.2 million for mental health services in the last budget, ACTCOSS says a similar level of investment wasn’t seen in community-based mental health services to tackle mental illnesses at a more local level to steer people away from emergency services.
As such, prevention and early intervention services run by community organisations are essential, ACTCOSS says.
Other proposals also cover education, environment, justice, transport, and family and children’s services sectors.
For a full list of its budget proposals, visit ACTCOSS.