Response to the Federal Budget 2024-2025

Olivia Killeen, Communication and Social Policy Officer
Olivia Killeen Communication and Social Policy Officer
21 May 2024
Mini house sits on a desk

Sacred Heart Mission welcomes the significant investments in homelessness and social housing, and family violence support provided in the Federal Budget 2024-2025, released on 14 May 2024.

The $9.3 billion investment in the five-year National Social Housing and Homelessness Agreement, doubling the Commonwealth’s investment into homelessness services in partnerships with the States and Territories is very welcome, and extremely significant for the social services sector. This includes an increase of $400 million in federal homelessness funding each year, which will benefit the community sector greatly.

We also support the additional $6.2 billion in housing initiatives, including those being delivered through the National Housing Accord, Housing Australia Future Fund and Social Housing Accelerator.

In addition, the $925.2 million provided for the Leaving Violence Program, that provides individualised financial support packages for eligible victim-survivors is very welcome and necessary as family violence continues be a wicked social problem that permeates our community.

While we welcome the 10 per cent increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance, it is important to recognise that this is a modest increase – it will only give a single person an additional $9.40 per week if they are receiving the maximum rate of the payment. Only 40% of people receiving Jobseeker and related payments will benefit from this increase, well short of the approximately 1 million Australians receiving these payments.

The reality is that the primary reason people seek homelessness support in the first place is that they cannot afford their housing. The proposed changes to Rent Assistance will not fundamentally reduce housing stress; a spend of more than 30% of income on housing. Jobseeker and Youth Allowance are simply too low and rental prices well outstrip them, meaning that people are spending more than half their income on rent alone. We are concerned that many landlords will simply raise their rents in response to this change.

We support the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) position that the Budget should have included increases to income support payments for the majority of recipients. They determined that only 4,700 people nation-wide, who are assessed as having a partial capacity to work up to 14 hours per week, will benefit from the changes announced in the Budget.

Ultimately, these individuals should be Disability Support Pension (DSP) recipients in the first place, denied this right, due to government bureaucracy designed to limit access to the DSP. We fundamentally believe that raising all income support payments to above $80 per day will dramatically reduce poverty in this country.

Leading experts, economists and the community sector have been calling for this change for many years and our calls have not been heard.

At the same time, the energy rebates provided in the Budget fail to target people experiencing significant disadvantage in our community, who are hit the hardest by inflation and low wage growth.

Sacred Heart Mission CEO, Hang Vo says “Rebates to all households, are not likely to be noticed or appreciated by those on higher incomes. We believe energy bill relief should be means tested and targeted at those on the lowest incomes – households earning the minimum wage and receiving government income support.”

“Furthermore, we believe the government should do much more to support low-income households to improve their energy efficiency and reduce their energy bills, so people experiencing deep disadvantage do not need to choose between keeping the lights on and putting food on the table,” she says.

While we supported the changes the Albanese Government has made to the Stage 3 tax cuts, announced earlier this year as significantly fairer than those proposed by the previous government; overall we believe that the Government could have done significantly more to support people on the lowest incomes who are living in poverty.

We are pleased that the Government is investing in the aged care and disability sectors, providing the necessary funding for implementing the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and strengthening the NDIS.

We look forward to the outcome of the Fair Work Commission’s upcoming wage determination for aged care workers, ensuring that the staff in our care economy are paid fairly for the life-giving work they do, which will support growth and development as these workforces continue to grow as our population ages.