Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 10 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 3065..
Dr Foskey (continuing):
to respond to the Community Inclusion Board's report on poverty proofing. And the future of the board itself is unclear, as noted in the budget this year. Mr Speaker, I seek leave for an extension of time. (Extension of time not granted.)
MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (4.24): The Chief Minister has clearly outlined the government's work in addressing the causes and impacts of poverty. Our government has a robust and sustainable policy framework, has a commitment to receiving high-level information from the Community Inclusion Board and has made a significant investment in the provision of holistic, client-focused services such as the ACT child and family centres.
Both the Community Inclusion Board and the child and family centres are flagship initiatives under the Canberra social plan. As flagship initiatives, they clearly demonstrate the government's commitment to working in best-practice ways to ameliorate the impacts of poverty for our constituents. However, I would like to draw attention to the significant work our government agencies do each day through delivering a raft of services and programs that specifically target poverty and disadvantage. In describing this work I would like to specifically outline the ACT government's efforts to alleviate housing stress for people experiencing poverty and disadvantage. Of course, part of this work is evaluating the services and programs that the government delivers. I would like to stress that we work constantly in reviewing services to ensure that service delivery is based on a comprehensive understanding of local needs.
The ACT's high cost of living presents significant barriers for those experiencing the stresses of poverty. To assist with some of these stresses, the government provides a comprehensive emergency relief and concession program. The ACT government currently gives approximately $823,000 to welfare agencies such as the Salvation Army and the St Vincent de Paul Society to distribute to people in financial crisis. Services include food relief, household goods, clothing, utility payment assistance, financial information, advice and referral.
In addition, the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services administers the ACT concessions program, which aims to improve the affordability of essential services for low-income earners. The concessions program currently provides assistance with energy, water and sewerage, general rates, public transport, student transport, motor vehicle registration and drivers licences, the ACT spectacle subsidy scheme, the ACT seniors spectacle scheme, the low-vision aids scheme and life support. The total amount for concession payments in 2006-07 was in excess of $18 million. The program aims to achieve a balance in the standard of living and access to essential services for all members of the ACT community.
Homelessness in the ACT affects approximately 1,200 people each night. The experiences of these people, and the many more who are at risk of homelessness, are complex, unique and personal. Multiple factors contribute to homelessness. Domestic violence, drug and alcohol misuse, physical and mental illness, relationship breakdown, unemployment and poverty are all primary causes of homelessness. The responses and strategies required to alleviate its impacts, reduce its likelihood and support people to transition from homelessness are complex. This in turn requires