Federal Budget brings wins and losses
The Federal Budget is a mixed bag of wins and losses for women escaping family violence and who are homeless, according to CEO Jocelyn Bignold.
“There has been partial delivery on housing, family violence, and the community legal services, but there are no long-term solutions.” Jocelyn said.
The organisation is appalled by the plans to cut welfare payments to people who fail drug tests or don't turn up to appointments.
“This is a dreadful initiative and will hit people who have an addiction or poor mental health who need help, not punishment. This will increase homelessness,” she said.
McAuley is pleased that there is increased security for homelessness funding, and that the new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement will replace the current National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) and National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH).
However, the level of funding is only being maintained in real terms. There are 105,000 Australians experiencing homelessness each night, with 200,000 people on public housing waiting lists.
McAuley has consistently called on the Federal Government to increase the supply of public housing; focus on preventing tenancy breakdown; create more short and medium term accommodation; better integrate existing services; invest in ‘Housing First’ and ‘Rapid Re-Housing’ services, with provision for social inclusion measures; increase the focus on prevention; establish better outcomes measurement systems and close the ‘homelessness gap’ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. None of these has been allocated additional funding in the Federal Budget.
Community Legal Centres
The good news is that the future of Community Legal Centres is more secure with a $55.7 million boost.
McAuley was one of 37 family violence groups that partnered with Fair Agenda to speak against the danger of the federal government's planned cuts to Community Legal Centres.
Our submission argued that access to legal assistance changed lives, enabling women and children stay safe, and gives them the power to make informed decisions so they can feel more in control of their lives.
“In many cases, the work of CLCs is the reason someone can finally escape an abusive partner.” Jocelyn said.
Of the 25 residents currently at McAuley House, 17 have used community legal centres on issues from immigration, to court matters and intervention orders.
The Government is also injecting a further $3.4 million over two years to expand the domestic violence unit pilot, established as part of the Women's Safety Package in September 2015.
The Women’s Safety Package sits within the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022. Particularly welcome is the funding allocated to increasing the use of technology to keep women safe.
Family law reform
McAuley has welcomed the first comprehensive review into the family law system since the commencement of the Family Law Act in 1976.
We shall be putting in a submission on the proposed amendments, including ensuring that victims of family violence are not put in a position where they are personally cross-examined by alleged perpetrators, or required themselves to cross-examine their alleged perpetrator.