Budget must deliver relief for a sector at breaking point

Workers and employers from around the country have united in an urgent call for the Federal Government to provide extra funding for community services struggling with significant cost pressures, warning these essential services are on the brink of major cuts.

The Australian Services Union and the Australian Council of Social Service have written to the Albanese Government urging it to include a 5.5% rate of indexation for Commonwealth-funded community services in this month’s Budget.

Australian Services Union Assistant National Secretary Emeline Gaske said lack of adequate indexation over the past decade had starved community services of extra funding, pushing many to breaking point amid unprecedented demand for services and a need to pay workers more due to long-overdue increases in the minimum wage.

“Underinvestment and inadequate indexation over the last decade means workers are not paid fairly for their hard and complex work, remaining constantly on the brink of exhaustion, burnout and leaving the sector,” she said.

“These workers are on the frontline in our community working in vital areas like disability support, shelters, youth outreach, community health services and community legal services.

“Anthony Albanese and his team committed to fair wages and proper and transparent indexation for the community sector before the election. The government should fund the pay increase it fought for and celebrated, because it knows indexation is critical to prevent funding for services being eroded by costs.”

ACOSS Deputy CEO Edwina MacDonald said delivering fair indexation in the October Budget will help community services stay open this year.

“Social service organisations are incredibly dedicated to assisting their communities, a fact they’ve demonstrated time and again during recent catastrophic disasters coupled with the pandemic. They are doing everything they can to keep services running for people in need, but they need this immediate support from government to keep their heads above water.

“The government’s election commitment to the sector and to adequate and transparent funding is most welcome. As part of this, it should deliver on adequate indexation in the October budget to ensure community services stay open this year. Delivering on adequate indexation in this year’s budget will mean organisations don’t have to cut service delivery to the community and that they won’t have to cut staff.

“ACOSS agrees with the Treasurer that we need to have a conversation about how we can grow the revenue Australia needs to pay for the essential services upon which we all rely. This includes the safety net to end poverty and deliver wellbeing. ACOSS stands ready to work with the government on these issues for the benefit of our sector and the people it helps everyday.”