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Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Labour to scrap community grassroots projects

Labor will scrap funding for local community grassroots projects that strengthen families and support communities, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.

She said the Opposition spokesman for family and community services, Wayne Swan, has told a Melbourne newspaper that Labor would scrap the successful Stronger Families and Communities Strategy and replace it with a “couple of strong national programs”.

“Labor is threatening to turn its back on local communities which have received funding from the Howard Government to help strengthen families and increase the capacity of local communities by working at the grassroots level,” she said.

“Mr Swan says he knows best what local communities need. He wants to scrap the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy, which has committed more than $200 million to help local communities to find local solutions to their problems and introduce a program where Mr Swan dictates what people need in their communities across the country.

“Local communities are diverse and are best placed to identify and respond to local problems. Lasting solutions are more likely to be found if governments work in partnership with communities.”

Mr Swan in today’s Age newspaper says: “If the money had all been put into a couple of strong national programs, we would have got a better bang for our buck.”

Senator Patterson rejected claims that funding of the four-year Stronger Families and Communities Strategy had been frozen.

“Since the Strategy was announced in 2000, 616 family and community projects have been approved for funding. Of these projects, 406 have targeted regions identified as having high levels of disadvantage. There are many continuing projects being funded,” she said.

“To ensure that the remaining funds can cover the approved projects the Department of Family and Community Services is no longer inviting or accepting new expressions of interest at this time.”

Senator Patterson said as a normal part of the Budget process the program, which was in its fourth year of a four-year funding allocation, was being reviewed .

“It has been a very successful program based on prevention and early intervention to help families and communities to deal with challenges and take advantage of opportunities.

“Like all programs, it is subject to review. The Government has an obligation and responsibility to assess all programs to ensure they are continuing to meet the needs of recipients and using taxpayers’ money efficiently.

“The Howard Government remains fully committed to supporting and strengthening family and community life by working at the grassroots, community level – unlike Labor.”

The Stronger Families and Communities Strategy is in addition to the record $19 billion annual assistance to help families with the cost of raising their children through family payments, child care assistance, and maternity and parenting payments.