The budget released on 3 May demonstrates why Victoria is the place to be living in Australia right now. The Andrews Government has put money behind their rhetoric, backing their equity agenda with some truly landmark investments.
The $1.9 billion to fund services for people who have experienced, or are experiencing family violence is a standout that will fund such initiatives as a dedicated prevention agency, front line services, emergency and long term housing, financial counselling, 17 support and safety hubs across the State and 5 specialist family violence courts. This is a momentous investment and an acknowledgement of the scale of this entrenched issue. While we unreservedly applaud this initiative, we know that many women escaping family violence with their children return home when the costs of housing and re-establishing kids in school, are too great to manage on a Newstart payment or minimum wage. This is the rub of State-Federal relations and we can only hope the Federal budget will commit as profoundly to a safety net with funds for women and children escaping family violence to rebuild their lives.
What other budget initiatives will translate into support for single mother families in Victoria?
- Funds for building social housing could ease the acute shortage of affordable housing in the long term, and funds for upgrading the energy efficiency of low income households should reduce utility costs (but will it help renters?).
- $5.7 million for the implementation of Victoria’s Gender Equality Strategy includes $1.1 million for financial literacy programs for vulnerable women to improve their financial security.
- $90m (over 2 years) for job creation, including for communities experiencing high levels of disadvantage, may result in the permanent part-time jobs that single mothers so desperately need. Only time will tell.
- $4.3M will support 3-4 year old disadvantaged children engage with kindergarten.
- Building new schools and school upgrades have been financed.
- $81.1 million will be invested in more Maternal and Child Health services and targeted parenting support.
All of this is commendable and heartening. However, for a working single mother struggling to meet living and education costs, who has lost the Federal School Kids bonus at the end of 2016 and gets a tiny bit of Newstart to top up her wage, does any of this help her when times are tight? I think we will find that the answer is largely no.
The Federal budget is due out next Tuesday and I do not expect to feel heartened by it. I think there will be some concerning hits to the most disadvantaged in our community, in a continuation of the trend to balance the budget at the expense of those who can least afford it. We will be waiting with bated breath. I do not think crossing our fingers is going to be of any help.
CEO – Council of Single Mothers and their Children