Page 3172 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 18 October 2022

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (10.42): I am pleased to rise again in support of this budget and to speak specifically about our investments which support families and community services, as well as our investments in partnership with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

The ACT government is committed to the principle of early support—to shifting investment earlier in the life of a person, family or issue to ensure that we are meeting need when it first arises not only when it escalates to a crisis point. Many of the essential services that seek to realise this principle of early support are delivered through the government’s partnership with the non-government sector.

Every year thousands of Canberrans seek out the 250 essential services funded by the ACT government and provided by the community sector, across homelessness supports, child and family supports, legal services, statutory care and protection, family safety, mental health, multicultural services and support to manage alcohol and other drug dependency. I am sure that I have missed some in that list.

These programs and organisations contribute to what makes Canberra a great place to live and to ensuring that all Canberrans have the support that they need. Currently, the ACT government invests more than $200 million, in partnership with more than 140 community sector organisations, to deliver these services for our community. In turn, the community sector employs around 17,000 people to do this crucial work. The social services sector is people-powered, with wages being the most significant costs for the non-government organisations we partner with.

The community sector indexation rate, or CSI, is a formula which determines the indexation percentage for most ACT government community sector contracts and deeds. The formula for CSI has historically been the wage price index, 80 per cent of the formula, plus the consumer price index, the other 20 per cent. These two indices in that balance have been a fairly robust and sensible way of deciding how much indexation should apply over many years.

However, over the last two years in particular we have seen a welcome increase in relevant award wages above the wage price index, and so we have adjusted the community sector indexation accordingly. Earlier this year, the Fair Work Commission annual wage review decision responded to inflation with increases in the minimum award and, relevantly, the wages set out through the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award, or the SCHCADS Award.

In response, the government has adjusted the methodology of calculating the CSI rate. The application of a CSI rate of 4.43 per cent in this budget will see the community sector receive an additional $28.1 million over four years. This funding increase reflects our commitment to the sector and to ensuring that organisations can pay their incredibly valuable, skilled and qualified workers the wages they deserve without compromising the service delivery. We know there is further work to do with the sector to improve sector sustainability. The Counting the Costs report, which we commissioned and which was released earlier this year, contained several recommendations and we are working to deliver a whole-of-government response to the report in early 2023.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video