A federal budget that puts community at the front and centre
As the government prepares to reveal the federal budget, essential community services that Australians depend on are urging for a budget that puts people, particularly those experiencing disproportionate hardships, at the front and centre.
Especially after a rollercoaster of a year with the pandemic among other crises shaking up communities, the government cannot and must not overlook vulnerable members of society who continue to grapple with the impacts.
Heightened inequalities that cannot be ignored
The pandemic presented a clear escalation in challenges for marginalised members of our society. An alarming report from the Australian National University estimates that poverty rates among young people with single parent families will surpass pre-pandemic levels to 41 per cent, as a result of the cuts to emergency income support.
Other challenges that persist as we make our way through 2021 include increased mental health challenges among our young people, to escalations in relationship tensions and violence, to heightened unemployment rates with over 230,000 people unemployed for a year or more.
It is not enough to say that the nation or economy is emerging from the pandemic, if vulnerable communities are left worse off than before. While there have been conversations around the government taking cost-cutting measures to counteract the huge spend on emergency measures throughout 2020, the government must continue to support community services that play a critical role in the process of recovery.
Closing the gap by investing in our marginalised communities
Investment is needed in building up and strengthening community services that provide holistic responses to the needs of people who need it most. We need to see greater investment in supporting vulnerable people with complex needs, to ensure no one gets trapped in cycles of disadvantage.
A valuable measure would be to invest in responsive community level services that contribute significantly towards the development and delivery of services that are relevant to the communities served. Over the years, there has been a dramatic reduction in dynamic community managed spaces and activities designed to build and feed the growth of communities.
This decline will be detrimental if left unaddressed, especially when 61 per cent of community sector workers have reported increased demand for their service due to the impacts of the pandemic, despite a majority reporting financial hardship.
Furthermore, community services that have been on the frontline of the pandemic to support vulnerable members of society have reported additional, more complex needs and an influx of new groups requiring support. The government must step up to protect the future of this sector that critically invests in the wellbeing and growth of our communities.
It is with the right investment and support from the government, that the community sector can continue to build the necessary infrastructure and multipronged supports to serve those who need it most. This includes being able to sustain long-term engagement to capture marginalised people from falling through existing safety nets.
This federal budget must act on supporting and uplifting communities to ensure everyone is seen and heard. Not only is now an ideal time, but it is a critical time for the government to invest in intervention and support strategies to help people most affected get back on their feet and lead better lives.