Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Big Budget Boost for Families and Communities

The Government will provide an additional $843 millionas part of the Federal Budget to fund five key initiatives in the Family and Community Services Portfolio.

Despite the Government’s strong commitment to defence spending, there has been a further commitment by the Government to families and communities in this Budget.

The majority of new money will go towards increased funding for disability support services. Funding available to the States and Territories under a third, five year, Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement (CSTDA) will increase by $743 million compared with the previous Agreement. As part of the third CSTDA, the Government is making $547.5 million of new money available in this Budget to continue the level of Commonwealth assistance to support specialist services for people with disabilities.

This increase in funding depends upon the States and Territories making the same percentage increase themselves as the Commonwealth has made to all its CSTDA services, including employment services. Better accountability for the money they spend under the CSTDA will also be required. The increase would also be dependent upon Parliament passing our legislation on Disability Support Pension reforms.

The Commonwealth is expecting the States and Territories to lift their game and match the Commonwealth’s percentage funding increase for people with disabilities under the Agreement, including funding for disability employment services.

The State and Territory Governments need to understand that disabled people expect to see significant improvements in services such as accommodation, pre-vocational preparation, and social and living skills training.

The Commonwealth has made it clear that the States and Territories will need to meet their fair share and be more accountable for what they do with the disability funding they get from the Commonwealth.

The Government is also providing $258 million of new money over three years to fund over 73,000 new places in disability employment and other services under the Disability Support Pension reforms also being put forward in the Budget.

Older Australians will welcome the commitment of $25.5 million over four years to fund the Commonwealth’s contribution to enabling state seniors card holders to travel at concessional transport rates when interstate.

This will be a real boon for the 700,000 state seniors currently receiving public transport concessions in their home state or territory.

The Government has also provided $6.5 million over four years to proceed with social security agreements with Croatia, Slovenia, Norway and Switzerland.

Older Australians will welcome the funding given to these two initiatives as a demonstration of the Government’s ongoing commitment to acknowledging the contribution made by older Australians.

With the high cost to the community from family breakdowns the Government has also commitment $5.3 million in 2002-03 to fund early intervention programmes to address issues of family conflict and separation. Programmes funded by this initiative have a significant regional and rural component.

More information on FaCS Budget measures