Helping WA’s most vulnerable will mean enabling non-government providers.
PLANS to build a million new homes and lift pay for aged care workers could be welcome news for the state’s community services sector.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ first budget focused on delivering election commitments, but also highlighted phenomenal pressure building on national finances.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme will cost more than $50 billion annually within four years, up 73 per cent from the year to June 2022.
Improving gender equality and boosting philanthropy are among the ways the federal government will seek to fight poverty, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Patrick Gorman said at a recent Business News Anti-Poverty Lunch.
Gender inequality was linked to poverty, Mr Gorman said, so programs to support care sector workers, extend paid parental leave and expand childcare payments would help improve the lives of the most vulnerable.
The plans include increasing the threshold to receive childcare subsidies to families earning $530,000 annually, and gradually increasing parental leave from 20 weeks to 26 weeks.
He said the government would be careful to get the best value for money in whatever initiatives it took.
An example was the financing of new university places, focusing on students from families where no relatives had previously attended university.
Funding is just one issue for service providers, however, with the sector also keen to work more closely with the government.
An example of this is a proposed short-term accommodation facility to help with homelessness in Western Australia’s north-west.
PeopleKind chief executive Gordon Trewern said a community services provider had committed $200,000 to refurbish the facility to help about 20 families.
He said that organisation also sought $200,000 of state government support for the work
A decision took seven months, and the funding request was declined.
“We don’t have nimble decisionmaking in our bureaucracy; there are too many barriers,” Mr Trewern told the forum.
“Those 20 families are still homeless for the sake of $200,000.
“We [in the community sector] are here to do the right thing.” Mr Trewern said governments needed to trust the non-government sector more to find solutions.
“What COVID demonstrated was [that] the non-government sector has huge capacity in times of crisis to come up with innovative solutions,” he said.
Governments could rethink contracting and tendering systems, which are very complex for providers, Mr Trewern said.
Uniting WA chief executive Michael Chester said it could take six weeks to find a place for someone who was homeless, and that delay was often a barrier to recovery.
“We’ve got now upwards of 250 people a day coming into Tranby, which is our homelessness engagement hub in Northbridge,” he said.
“The challenge for us is that even those people who come in and are ready for a change, it’s very difficult for us to put change in place for them at that time.
“If you come into Tranby and say today is the day that you want to get off drugs, you want to get clean, you need some support with mental health, our team is working desperately to find somewhere that we can get that person into in the next six weeks, not today.
“And that is a significant challenge for … us as a community.
“When people are ready to make a change … that’s the moment.”
Short Back & Sidewalks founder Craig Hollywood said society needed to have greater consideration for mental health issues among those suffering from homelessness.
“There’s a big lack of awareness in regard to the mental health challenges these people are actually facing on any given day,” Mr Hollywood told the forum.
“It’s not just a case of ‘here’s a bed, here’s a hotel room, on you go’.
“Every day is an absolute battle, depending on what type of challenges these people are experiencing.”
He said while the community was becoming more aware of mental health issues, there seemed to be a lack of appreciation how these issues interacted with homelessness and poverty.