Catholic health and education sectors welcome the Budget

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Most aged Australians want to be able to access support to remain in their own home for as long as possible. PHOTO: Stock image

Praise for a ‘landmark moment’ for older Australians

Catholic health and education agencies have welcomed Budget funding for aged care and disability as well as early childhood learning and support for gender equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls.

Catholic Health Australia welcomed the federal Government’s formal response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care, calling the $17.7 billion package a landmark moment for older Australians.

CHA said the measures will enable more Australians to be cared for in their home, increase the number of care minutes and provide more training for carers and the incentives for them to stay.

Pat Garcia. PHOTO: Catholic Health Australia

“This is a landmark moment for older Australians. In the last 12 months, aged care has exploded onto the public consciousness because of the COVID pandemic, the findings of the aged care royal commission and the Aged Care Collaboration’s 50,000 petitioners across the country,” CHA chief executive Pat Garcia said.

Mr Garcia said the aged care sector was ready to work with government to implement these reforms immediately. “These are large commitments, and we urge the Government to deliver on the timetable for reform,” he said.

Meanwhile Catholic hospitals have welcomed the Government’s reforms to bring down the cost of medical devices but warn any move to remove essential items like hips, stents and pacemakers could lead to higher patient costs and cuts to regional services.

The National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) has welcomed $1.6bn funding for Early Childhood learning and $63.5 million to support gender equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls announced in the 2021-22 Budget, saying it responds to areas of significant educational need.

Executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission Jacinta Collins with students. PHOTO: NCEC

NCEC executive director Jacinta Collins said that the continuation of universal access to 15 hours of preschool will enable children to build critical foundations in the year before commencing school.

The Catholic education sector operates about 250 preschools and early learning centres educating nearly 5,000 children across Australia.

“The government’s commitment to a new, four-year agreement will support early childhood services and encourage more families to access affordable early learning for their children,” Ms Collins said.

The Catholic sector said the Government’s commitment to fund 2,700 additional places in girls’ academies would help to provide culturally appropriate support for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to achieve Year 12 attainment and post-school transition.

Failure to address growing inequality

However a coalition of some of the country’s largest social service providers said the Budget fails to address growing inequality in Australia.

In reviewing the details released last night, Anglicare Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia, UnitingCare Australia and the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council welcomed important spending measures but said the Government’s response to the issues facing the country doesn’t go far enough.

Between them, the organisations employ over 90,0000 staff and engage over 100,000 volunteers, serving millions of Australians annually.

More than 110,000 people were waiting for social housing in NSW and some of these people had been waiting more than ten years. Photo: Sardaka/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0
More than 110,000 people are waiting for social housing in NSW. Growing inequality has not been addressed by the recent Budget, say welfare advocates. PHOTO: Sardaka/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0

Many of the vulnerable people they support were lifted out of poverty by critical government subsidies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organisations, which include the St Vincent de Paul Society and Catholic Social Services Australia, said the expiry of some of that support has not been addressed in the Budget.

Toby oConnor, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society’s National Council said social service providers are constantly seeking a just, compassionate and fair society, and assess government decisions – including the Federal Budget – based on whether they achieve that goal.

Francis Sullivan, Chair of Catholic Social Services Australia said this was the time to make systemic change that could alter the lives of people living with entrenched poverty and disadvantage and help all Australians by strengthening the economy.

‘Sadly, the initiatives announced last night don’t deliver that systemic change,’ he said.