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Infrastructure and incarceration eclipse social investments

Wednesday 6th May, 2014

The Salvation Army welcomes the release of the Victorian 2014-15 State Budget, particularly the affirmation and extension of funding to homelessness, out-of-home care, concessions and youth diversion programs.  However, there are continued concerns about the massive growth in prison infrastructure that has been a major feature of Victorian budgets over the past three years.

“There are many things in this budget for us to be positive about, but transport infrastructure should not eclipse the importance of social infrastructure which has a greater impact ultimately on the people of Victoria,” said Manager of The Salvation Army Victorian Social Program Captain Jason Davies-Kildea.

In the context of a tough economic environment, the Victorian Government has made a bold move structuring their budgets to project ongoing surpluses beyond the capacity of any other state, territorial or federal government.  Substantial investments in transport infrastructure and vocational training will provide measurable economic benefits to many in the community but lots of those who find themselves seeking help from the Salvos will continue to struggle.

In their budget submission last year, The Salvation Army highlighted the cost of housing and utilities as the key factors that were continually presented by Victorians battling to stay afloat in tough times.  An additional $33.4M in utility and rates concessions will help more people keep up with increasing costs but the unchanged cap on water concessions will mean most families won't gain the full 50% benefit intended.  Funding to renovate and maintain 9,500 public housing properties as part of the Social Housing Framework is absolutely necessary at a time when demand is particularly high and affordable housing is an increasing rarity, however continued and substantial investment in growing social housing stock is vital.

This last year has seen a continuation of many reforms in the community services sector intended to strengthen the supports available to vulnerable Victorians.   While the future of much of the community services sector remains to be seen, The Salvation Army is pleased to see added investment in several key areas of the social services sector namely: 

  • The expansion of Services Connect to a further eight locations across the state;
  • $21.9M to extend the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH)  for a further 12 months; 
  • Increasing investments in the out-of-home care system, including $38M for additional home based care placements and $24.1M for additional child protection workers.

The Salvation Army has serious concerns about the ongoing and massive investment that the Victorian Government has been making in the creation of thousands of additional prison beds.  The costs of this expansion to the Victorian community in initial capital expenditure and later in operational costs have already hit well over a billion dollars and continue to increase dramatically. However, the key concern is not just the cost but that such investment occurs at the wrong end of the system - after crimes have already been committed.

Last year, there was an increase in family violence reports of more than 20% but the resources to match demand are still lacking.  In his budget speech, Treasurer Michael O'Brien MP stated that "there is no place - and no excuse - for family violence in our community" - a sentiment that we wholeheartedly endorse.  If, as a community, we're serious about tackling both the causes and consequences of crime, then we should expect a far greater investment in this area, immediately and into the future.

For further information or media comment please contact:
Captain Jason Davies-Kildea – Manager, Victorian Social Programme & Policy Unit The Salvation Army – Australia Southern Territory (Vic., SA, Tas., WA & NT)
Tel: 03 9353 5217 Mob: 0418 539 235 Email: jason.davies-kildea@aus.salvationarmy.org