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Kind, considered approach needed to Tasmanian Budget
IN ITS Budget Priorities Statement the Tasmanian Council of Social Services calls on the State Government to take a different approach.
The peak body writes: “It is critical that Tasmania learns from other jurisdictions to avoid replicating the social and economic vulnerability being caused by deep budget cuts to health, welfare and education systems there”.
A strategic approach is needed, rather than what TasCOSS calls “uncoordinated cuts” at both state and federal levels, which hurt our most vulnerable people.
The report outlines strong reasoning for this alternative, for example:
Public sector cuts are likely to increase unemployment in the short term (at least), resulting in reduced economic activity and increased social issues, which mean further public expenditure in the long run on safety net measures.
Child and family services is one area the report highlights, stating that government cuts could undermine reform in this area.
TasCOSS puts forward several areas it says the government should prioritise, which are outlined below.
TasCOSS notes the devastating impact the reduction of 266 FTE Education staff will have on learning:
“It’s difficult, however, to reconcile current staffing cuts in public schools with the Government’s vision. These cuts sit poorly with the Government’s stated objectives of increasing educational retention and of up-skilling the Tasmanian workforce.”
Cuts also mean many schools are losing or reducing literacy and numeracy programs and support for higher needs children.
The report recommends school staffing is increased to return to 2014 levels, with no further cuts to staffing.
Emotional support in schools
The TasCOSS report stresses the importance of schools having staff such as psychologists, social workers, guidance officers and teacher assistants to support children who need it to increase their educational outcomes, future health and welfare.
TasCOSS recommends funding is given so children can receive more support at schools.
Student transition to employment
The combined cuts on state and federal levels are making students’ move into the workforce more difficult. TasCOSS highlights that the decision to abolish the Guaranteeing Futures Program (Pathway Planners) plus the removal of the federally funded Youth Connections program is a double whammy that harms school retention rates and the transition to work.
TasCOSS asks the State Government to restore support functions of the Guaranteeing Futures Program.
Other priority areas the report lists are funding to address transport disadvantage and investing in the community sector.
TasCOSS also suggest possible savings and alternate sources of revenue that can help the State Government’s fiscal position.
One of these measures includes retaining suspended sentencing. The report estimates this could save $13.2M over the forward estimates. TasCOSS mentions several other ways to increase the government’s revenue stream including an extension of Land tax.
The report also calls for increased transparency for budget decision making.
The first means to do this is for the government to collect data and report on the impact of budget cuts on vulnerable people and to make these impacts publically available. Second, TasCOSS calls for increased community involvement in decisions about public resources, including consultation and clear, transparent information around possible options.
Find the full report here.