The Marshall Government's first State Budget contains swings and roundabouts, says the SA Council of Social Service.
"We appreciate that the Budget provides funding for election promises, including modest increases to some important programs for disadvantaged South Australians, " says SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley, "but at the same time we are concerned about cuts to a number of services."
"The challenge now is that the next Budget will need big social infrastructure investments to drive prevention. This is the only way to address issues like domestic and family violence, homelessness, affordable housing, disease prevention, and ensuring children and young people never need enter the child protections system."
"Similarly, tax cuts are all well and good, but where will the money come from when this Budget contains no obvious long-term plan to address our structural revenue crisis?"
Election promises fulfilled
The 2018-19 SACOSS Budget Submission identified 30 election promises which would benefit vulnerable and disadvantaged South Australians. Our Budget analysis (as of 6.30pm tonight*) identifies 26 that have been funded including:
• 1 Digital Inclusion initiative – $10m for Mobile Phone Black Spots
• 4 Energy Investments – including Household Storage Subsidies ($100m), and a Grid Scale Storage Fund ($50m)
• At least 11 of 15 Health initiatives – including funding for a Borderline Personality Disorder Service ($2.5m), $20m for a Rural health workforce plan), a Bowel Cancer Prevention initiative ($5m), palliative care outreach ($16m), and several hospital investments
• 2 Housing initiatives – crisis accommodation for women and children ($4m) and a loan facility to NGO women’s shelters ($5m)
• 5 Justice initiatives – including re-instating full-time community legal services in the Riverland and funding Women’s Safety Service Crisis Hotline 24 hrs/day
• 2 Human Services initiatives – the creation of a Vulnerable Persons Agency and abolishing screening check fees for volunteers
• 2 TAFE/training initiatives – funding for new apprenticeships ($100m) and a new technical college in Adelaide’s west.
• 2 in child wellbeing including extending foster care support to 21 years, and establishing an Aboriginal Childrens' Commissioner.
*We are still following up on the remaining promises.
Details of cuts
However, the Budget also contains some cuts to existing services which are important to vulnerable and disadvantaged South Australians.
"SACOSS is disappointed by the decisions to cut funding to: Health Consumers Alliance, ShineSA, Centrecare, to the Fund My Neighbourhood Program, The Digital Game Development Program, the Legal Services Commission and to Uniting Communities, as well as the unspecified 2% 'efficiency dividend' in relation to NGO contracts in health."
The Budget also does little to address the long term sustainability of revenue to fund services.
"The Budget highlights the extent to which the MAC underpinned Budget revenue in the last few years, but this Budget is similarly underpinned by the GST windfall rather than a sustainable state revenue base."
"By delivering tax cuts without addressing the underlying structural revenue problem we are left vulnerable in the long term. This is particularly the case when despite operation surpluses this state's net debt increases over the forward estimates because of the infrastructure expenditure."
Prevention and early intervention
SACOSS is also concerned that much of the new expenditure in the Budget are directed towards tertiary or crisis interventions, rather than initiatives to prevent harm in the first place.
"Two of the major areas of investment in the budget are in health and child protection but in both areas expenditure is largely targeted at the tertiary end."
"This Budget does put some additional resources into a number of important primary health activities which are welcomed but will go nowhere towards addressing long-term spiralling tertiary health costs."
"And indeed the additional investments into out of home care for children and young people reflect again more investments in the tertiary end of child protection and will not act as a successful barrier to the growing number of children and young people entering the child protection system."
SACOSS also has concerns about the closure of 7 TAFE campuses, increased charges to Housing Trust tenants and changes to and the removal of public transport routes.
We will tonight continue to go through all the Budget papers with a fine-tooth comb and release a detailed analysis as soon as possible.
Tuesday, 4 September 2018