WACOSS has called on the WA Government to use the record $6 billion surplus announced in yesterday’s annual report to invest in social infrastructure and address the cost of living crisis.

WACOSS CEO, Louise Giolitto, said rather than investing more money into infrastructure – as the Premier Mark McGowan noted in his media statement – the WA government should prioritise investment in social infrastructure.

“At a time when the cost of non-discretionary items like food, transport and housing are rising at an alarming rate, the state government should be using any surplus money to ease the pain for struggling households,” Ms Giolitto said.

“With petrol prices tipped to hit $2 a litre again, interest rates continuing to rise and wages going backwards in real terms – even with the recent minimum wage rise – 2022 continues to be an incredibly tough year for so many WA families.

“Over the first half of 2022, we’ve seen a significant increase in requests for emergency relief and support from right across the community services sector with Foodbank reporting that 21% of Western Australians – more than one in five people – are missing meals every single week.

“The Premier has done an incredible job at managing the state’s financial affairs throughout the pandemic and delivering a record surplus, but – with the added impacts of global instability and natural disasters on essential items – a lot more can be done to help those who need it the most.

“One of the best ways the WA Government can improve cost of living pressures for low income Western Australians, particularly those who are struggling to secure housing, is to introduce a temporary rent relief scheme.

“WACOSS acknowledges the significant investment this government has made to address the housing crisis; however, people need relief now and houses cannot be built overnight.

“We also want to see greater investment into early intervention and prevention services so that there are safe, culturally appropriate and accessible options for people who are in crisis.”

Ms Giolitto also noted the government’s plans to use the surplus to fund improved public sector wages.

“The community service sector is in desperate need of extra funding, not only to continue to deliver essential services and supports to people in the community who are doing it tough, but to retain and pay those staff who have been working on the frontline throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Service providers who work in homelessness, family and domestic violence, financial counselling, youth diversionary and justice programs, local community neighbourhood centres, family and children services, community health centres and many more have all seen a huge surge in demand this year as more and more WA families have felt the pinch.

“The community service sector already operates on a shoe string budget and I am deeply concerned that essential services will become unviable without more investment from the WA government.

“With such a healthy budget surplus, it’s imperative that the McGowan government use this windfall to make sure that no one is left behind.”

– ENDS –

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