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The ‘well-being’ Budget offers positive steps to improve social and material conditions, but misses the mark on major reforms

YSAS welcomes additional spending on education and training, disability, diversion and treatment initiatives for First Nations people and action on family violence, but is concerned that measures included in the October Federal Budget to improve social and material conditions for young people experiencing serious disadvantage only skirt the edges of the investment needed to provide cost-of-living relief and to address inequality.

The first Federal Budget under a new Albanese Labor Government was forecast to focus on measures to improve well-being for young Australians and their families, and while election commitments to extend Paid Parental Leave, make childcare cheaper and boost skills and training opportunities with more free TAFE and university places are welcome, they won’t kick in for years to come and many young people will be left with less mental health care sessions under Medicare, paying more in rent and faced with soaring costs for other essentials without substantial increases to income support payments in the short-term. 

Recent reporting from the Australian Council of Social Services[1] shares the shocking statistic that one in six children are growing up in poverty. Increased experiences of social and economic disadvantage in childhood and adolescence are alarming and will have a negative impact on the conditions and opportunity young people require to live health and fulfilling lives. 

Andrew Bruun, YSAS CEO said that it’s positive to see initial steps taken to improve conditions for young people in the longer term with the announcement of the National Housing Accord to increase affordable housing supply and a commitment to ending violence against women and children within the next decade, but within a matter of months young people will have their free mental health care sessions under Medicare halved and Centrelink rental assistance remains stagnant. 

“We need to make accessing mental health services easier, not more difficult. A young person needing a psychologist but who has used up 10 free sessions, is unlikely to be able to pay given expensive power bills and soaring rents”.

“We are hopeful that what the next Federal Budget delivers is more ambitious in providing adequate and equal mental health care and raising the rate of income support payments for young people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis” Bruun said. 

For young people experiencing serious disadvantage, highlights in this Federal Budget include:

$10.5m over 4 years from 2022-2026 to establish an Office for Youth to include youth voice in policy-making,

$203.7m over 2 years from 2022-23 to provide additional mental health and wellbeing supports to Australian schools to address the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on student wellbeing,

$314.8m over 5 years from 2022-23 to support First Nations peoples’ wellbeing outcomes invested in traineeships, infrastructure and a Primary Health response,

$1.3m over 2 years from 2022-23 to support peak organisations to consult with LGBTIQA+ people to understand their experiences with health services, including funding for QLife to boost the volunteer peer support workforce, and

$437.4m over 3 years from 2022-23 to support people with a disability and their families.

YSAS supports calls from community services across the nation, including Anglicare Australia, for the Federal Government to take tax reform seriously and scrap Stage 3 tax cuts for wealthy Australians which would raise much-needed revenue to spend more on the urgent need across the community sector. 

[1] ACOSS, UNSW (2022) Poverty in Australia: A Snapshothttps://povertyandinequality.acoss.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Poverty-in-Australia-2020_A-snapshot.pdf

About YSAS (Youth Support + Advocacy Service)

The Youth Support + Advocacy Service (YSAS) is Australia’s largest, youth-specific community service organisation. Operating since 1998 as Victoria’s flagship Youth Alcohol and Other Drug service, YSAS now employs over 370 skilled staff across 19 sites in metropolitan and regional Victoria. While the prime focus of YSAS remains on effective Youth AOD treatment and sector leadership, the organisation also has extensive experience in providing young people and families with services that support improved mental health and improve meaningful community participation.

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