Despite modest new investment in social service infrastructure, today’s State budget released by Treasurer Lucas appears to be an all too familiar story.
Uniting Communities’ Chief Executive, Simon Schrapel said, ‘Understandably the government has focused new expenditure on additional physical infrastructure to stimulate economic activity and productivity. However, productivity and a robust State is more than roads and buildings – it’s also about people.’
The Government has missed a huge opportunity in the area of child protection, seemingly comfortable with the increasing number of children coming into and remaining in State care. Mr Schrapel said, ‘With the number of children already in State care being significantly above the national rate, we seem content with the fact that the only answer is to take more children into care.’
Next financial year alone, the State will spend a further $41.3 million on delivering out-of-home care services. This adds another 7% impost to the child protection budget – a consistent figure of growth for the past decade.
‘It is not sustainable for the economy or for children and young people,’ Mr Schrapel emphasised.
At the same time as accepting this increase, the Government has invested a paltry $4 million in the next year for programs to prevent the flow of children into care. ‘It is grossly inefficient and will just result in future cost pressures to the State. It is a false economy that fails to understand that smart, targeted prevention reduces downstream costs for the Government and community. In many ways it’s akin to treating a flu epidemic by only opening more hospital beds rather than ensuring all citizens have access to vaccines.’
The opportunities to invest in other harm prevention have also been missed with opportunities for greater community-based mental health services to reduce the demand for clinical services. Similarly, more investment in affordable housing, along with disease and injury prevention, will create better community outcomes and reduce the need for future high-cost, acute care expenditure.
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