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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1586


Ms RYAN (LalorOpposition Whip) (11:40): I also add my thanks to the member for Hotham for moving this motion in private members' business today, because the cuts and the processes that we are going through around these discretionary grants defy logic. What we are looking at in my electorate is increased demand coupled with decreased funding. What we are going to see is decreased provision for our most vulnerable.

Lalor has great community organisations, and they deliver smart, efficient and strategic problem programs that support the most vulnerable in our community. In Lalor, this is occurring where we have the highest eviction rates in the state, where unemployment in Melbourne's west has reached 8.4 per cent and youth unemployment is at 23.2 per cent. In this context, this government is choosing to make things more difficult.

Some of these smart and efficient services in Lalor are Werribee Support and Housing, which has been operating for 30 years; Laverton Community Integrated Services, which has been operating for 26 years; and the Salvation Army. Those three services are involved in emergency relief, while Anglicare and the Smith Family provide financial and often emotional support for families in crisis. They assist with financial counselling and capacity building to assist families to put things right and get back on their feet.

On the one hand, we have the emergency relief and the implications of that, and on the other we have the cuts of the programs that we know make the difference and cuts to the preventative measures that our communities worked so hard with these agencies to put into place. What is more important is that these local agencies negotiate with local landlords to find emergency housing when regular avenues are closed. They work together creatively to ensure maximum bang for the federal government buck, and here they have been rewarded by cuts.

These agencies also use deep local knowledge—irreplaceable local knowledge—of who is who in the zoo. They use insight to make things happen quickly, they support one another to keep ahead of the curve and create ways to implement prevention strategies—strategies that work and make all the difference to families facing crisis. They all rely on a paid and unpaid workforce to support individuals and families on their worst days. They work with the most vulnerable in our community on their worst days. These organisations have been operating with an austerity axe poised above their heads since this government took office.

In the time since this government took office, we have had a Productivity Commission report that outlined really positive outcomes in the sector. In 2012-13, 244,176 people across this country received support from homelessness service agencies. These people are already the most marginalised in our communities—young people, Indigenous people and those facing situations of domestic or family violence. These housing services can make all the difference. For example, that Productivity Commission report says that 93 per cent of people accessing homelessness services had achieved some or all of their case management goals at the end of their support period. That is an extraordinary achievement, and yet in recognition of that what we have are cuts.

We also had a Senate inquiry of which I was really proud. All of the agencies in my electorate put in collective and individual submissions to that inquiry, demonstrating the work that they were doing and the number of people that they were assisting. But, despite that happening across the country, what we have seen since this government came to office is the dismantling of the COAG agreements and the homelessness council, and $270 million cut from the system.

The fact is that we have increased demand and decreased funding, and the response from this Minister for Social Services have been crippling. Services who have worked in this area for decades are still unsure of what their responsibilities will be. They are sure that they have had their funding cut from their past grant allocations, but they are unsure how far they are going to have to make their cut dollars go and in what areas of the community and who they will be working with on the ground. More need and less support is the story that is happening in my electorate. My community deserves better. These agencies deserve better. Our most vulnerable deserve better. These grants create positive outcomes in the worst circumstances, and they need to be reinstated in full.