STATE BUDGET FULL OF PROMISE FOR NSW WOMEN
WEL welcomes the Women’s Opportunity Statement accompanying today’s NSW budget. “We hope that the Government will learn to weave this statement into its budget documents so that we see a genuine gender responsive budgeting process,” said Dr Mary O’Sullivan, WEL NSW Convenor.
“It is clear that the NSW Government’s budgetary response does not wish to focus on the negatives, like domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault and homelessness as key drivers of women’s economic insecurity. Yet the Statement does at least detail all the critical issues.”
The Government is emphasising women’s opportunities, with NSW being the best place for women to live, work and raise a family. The Statement does recognise domestic violence, sexual assault, poverty and homelessness as key barriers for many women, who continue to struggle to survive and to achieve economic independence, security and a safe place to live. WEL concedes that the budget includes many positive provisions for women, but equally positive responses to critical issues for women must remain the priority for Government.
There is no new or increased funding for sexual assault survivors or the services upon which they rely to recover, heal and reengage in the community or work. It is reported by services such as the 24/7 NSW Sexual Violence Helpline that one in three calls to the Helpline go unanswered.
The Women’s Opportunity Statement promises an investment of $16.5 billion over ten years to improve women’s opportunities and child development. Most of this funding will go to improve access to early childhood education and care in three initiatives - $1.7 billion towards introducing universal kindergarten; $1.3 billion fee relief for pre-school and $775 million towards boosting accessibility and affordability of childcare. WEL applauds these long overdue initiatives.
“But there are many other areas of need to improve women’s lives and many pressures on service providers,” said Dr O’Sullivan.
In the area of women’s housing, for example, the budget focuses on home ownership through a new shared equity first home buyer scheme that can assist only a small cohort. The scheme will not improve outcomes for those women struggling in the expensive private market nor for the women who face severe housing stress and homelessness because of domestic violence or as older women with little or no income. These women are not in a position to buy, even with the assistance of shared equity.
With this backdrop, the government proposes to fund only a handful of additional social and affordable dwellings to mop up the thousands on waiting lists. Yet it acknowledges that the number of women who are homeless in NSW has grown by 31% between the 2011 and 2016 census, (in contrast to a 10% national increase).
The Stronger Communities Cluster, which includes many of the program areas WEL monitors, has annual expenses of $11.7 billion. These are estimated to increase to $11.9 billion - or 1.6% - and its capital expenditure will fall by 20.3% from $402.7 million to $320.9 million. Inflation will chew up the increase and further escalate the decrease.
How will increased costs caused by inflation be addressed for all those service providers running the 75 new core and cluster women’s refuges to be funded?
Overall WEL welcomes the NSW Women’s Budget Statement as a good first step. We will be watching carefully to see that it all lives up to the promise.
Media Contact: Dr Mary O’Sullivan.
Mobile: 0419 444889
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