Support service bags the budget

By Ivy Jensen

AN ECHUCA support service has slammed the Federal Budget as a lost opportunity after it was revealed there will not be any extra funding for social housing or homelessness services.

The budget shows federal homelessness and housing funding will drop to $1.54 billion next financial year, the lowest level in a decade.

Despite an increase in people needing homelessness assistance every year.

‘‘There is nothing obvious about the government helping to improve affordability for rentals and people looking for housing,’’ Anglicare Victoria regional director Francis Lynch said.

‘‘And tax cuts are really focused on middle-income earners instead of those on low incomes.

‘‘There are a large number of people coming to us experiencing homelessness and the volume of housing available for low income earners and those on Centrelink is extremely low.

‘‘The government is doing nothing in the short-term to relieve this.’’

Mr Lynch said the 24-year freeze on the Newstart rate had also gone on for too long.

The Newstart payment has not increased in real terms since 1994, and sits at $40 a day for single recipients.

‘‘It makes it difficult for the unemployed and those seeking work and they are finding it almost impossible to survive,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s allowing too much inequality to occur.

‘‘In communities like Echuca, there are groups of people who are finding it impossible to get ahead.’’

Homelessness Australia’s (HA) analysis of the Budget papers shows there has been a 16 per cent decline in federal spending on housing and homelessness over the five years to 2018-19.

‘‘This budget has no strategy for creating a better country,’’ Mr Lynch said.

HA chair Jenny Smith has labelled the budget as ‘‘short-sighted and heartless’’ to neglect homelessness services and continue to allow our ageing social housing stock to dwindle.

‘‘We need the government to bolster the services that do the heavy lifting, and to build more housing that people on the lowest incomes can afford; it’s as simple, and as difficult, as that,’’ she said.

Homelessness Australia has warned that without more investment in social housing, the number of people accessing homelessness will hit close to 350,000 people each year by 2022.