|The Western Australian Council of Social Service has welcomed state budget investments to address cost of living pressures, build more social housing, expand family and domestic violence support, and for decarbonisation and climate change initiatives.
For the fourth year in a row Premier Mark McGowan has ushered in a huge surplus and delivered a state budget that promises to keep government fees and charges down, and provide $400 electricity credits for all households.
WACOSS CEO Louise Giolitto said that this timely cost of living relief is critical, but more needs to be done to prepare for the increasing wave of households entering financial hardship.
“We are pleased to see the Premier has responded to our calls from previous budgets and provided additional targeted relief to concession card holders, providing them with an additional $100 on that credit,” Ms Giolitto said.
“We are keen to work with the WA Government on how we can boost emergency relief and financial counselling services to help WA households through this difficult period and prevent too many falling into long-term financial difficulties.
“The increase to the Hardship Utility Grant limits (HUGS) by 10 per cent is welcome and much needed, with payments remaining static since 2017/18 not keeping pace with increases in energy and water costs. This will provide better support for those households experiencing difficulties with their utility bills.
“The electricity credits provide temporary assistance to households in the midst of the current cost of living crisis, but we are concerned there is a lack of investment in community services to provide the ongoing assistance households will need as this situation continues.
“The community services sector – which already operates on a shoestring budget – is in desperate need of extra funding, to continue to deliver essential services and supports to people in the community who are doing it tough, and retain and better pay the workforce who are predominantly women.
“The lack of affordable rental properties for low income households in WA is the most critical pressure on living costs. Building more social housing will help, but this will take years and more can be done right now.
“WACOSS has repeatedly called for a re-introduction of a rent-relief subsidy scheme to provide rental relief to households struggling right now. It is disappointing not to see that in this year’s budget.
“The budget includes critical investment to decarbonise our electricity system, including in generation and transmission. At the same time, we need to ensure that low income households are able to benefit from this transformation by making rental homes more energy efficient and supporting them to transition away from gas.”