2018 Budget: Missed opportunity to combat disadvantage

As Australia’s economy gets stronger, there is no better time to invest in ensuring everyone in Australia has opportunities to thrive.

Tonight’s Federal Budget, while supporting some promising initiatives, has done little to resource the concerted and comprehensive approach that is required if Australia is to make real headway towards combating disadvantage.

Rob Koczkar, CEO of Social Ventures Australia, said:

‘Too many Australians experience disadvantage. As a nation we need to consider the suite of policies and initiatives required – from early childhood interventions through to crisis responses – to become a truly fair and prosperous nation.

Infrastructure and social procurement

‘We note the Government’s $75 billion investment in transport infrastructure projects, and encourage the Government to consider the social, as well as economic, costs and benefits as it looks at where and how it will build new infrastructure.

‘We invite the Government to embrace social procurement in its infrastructure and service expenditure, to support employment and economic development for individuals and communities currently excluded from Australia’s economic prosperity.

‘The Indigenous Procurement Policy is a promising start, as is the recent Victorian Government announcement of a Social Procurement Framework. We would like to see both Commonwealth and State governments consider how they can maximise the benefits of their procurement for those Australians experiencing disadvantage.’

Impact investing

SVA welcomes the Government’s additional $8.2 million in funding to support the growth of social impact investing in Australia.  Developing an outcomes measurement framework, and additional funding for trials of social impact investing approaches, will support social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations to scale up their social impact projects.

‘Private capital is never going to replace the need for ongoing investment by government in critical services, but there is scope for it to have significant impact in areas including affordable housing supply, social impact bonds (SIBs) and social enterprise development.

‘SVA looks forward to working with Government as these initiatives are implemented.’

Housing

‘Stable housing improves health and wellbeing and provides a base to engage socially and economically in the community. The delivery of social and affordable housing is one of the most pressing social problems in Australia today.’

‘By 2020, Australia will have a shortfall of 500,000 social and affordable rental homes, and this Budget does not make any significant headway on solving this problem. We call on the Government to develop a comprehensive national strategy to support all Australians to have access to appropriate housing.

First Australians living in remote areas of Australia face significant housing challenges and continue to be overrepresented in the number of people experiencing homelessness. On Census night 32% of people experiencing homelessness due to overcrowding were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, despite only making up 3.3% of the population.

‘We welcome the Government’s previous commitment of $550 million over five years for housing for First Australians living in remote areas of the Northern Territory. We urge the Commonwealth to work constructively with the states to ensure that similar arrangements can be reached for First Australians living in other remote areas.

‘Above all, we encourage all governments to enter into genuine partnerships with First Australian communities to ensure that there are effective outcomes from this investment.’

Employment

SVA welcomes the Government’s recognition that some workers, such as older Australians and young people at risk of unemployment, need additional support to engage with the labour market.

The additional $89 million for the Transition to Work program and $189 million to support mature age Australians to adapt to the transitioning economy are two positive commitments in this area, but there is room for further action.

‘To be a truly inclusive society, people of all ages who are marginalised or who face challenges to participation must have opportunities to engage fully in work, study and training.

‘The employment system needs to be more adaptive to the needs of people experiencing the most entrenched disadvantaged and focused on high-quality and innovative supports leading to long-term outcomes for job-seekers.

‘For example, we need to better support employers create non-traditional pathways for disadvantaged applicants. Demand-led initiatives have shown great promise to this end and should become a greater focus of government employment policy.’

Education

‘We are pleased that the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to implement the recommendations of the education review chaired by David Gonski; to create a new evidence institute and invest more in professional development for teachers and school leaders.

‘We urge the government to move swiftly to fund and implement the new evidence institute, which SVA has advocated for more than two years. It is the missing piece in the Australian education system.

‘It is essential that teachers, parents, and policy makers have access to the best evidence of what works to improve learning.

‘We also encourage the government to incorporate models of peer-to-peer networks as part of future investments in professional development for teachers and school leaders to help spread effective practices in low SES areas.

‘SVA pioneered this approach and it has great support in participating schools across three states.’