Page 991 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 25 February 2009

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MR SPEAKER: Order, Mr Hargreaves! One of your members is trying to ask a question.

MS BURCH: My question is to the Treasurer. Can you provide an update on the rollout of the emergency relief and support package as funded through the second appropriation of December last year?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms Burch for the question. I am very pleased to advise the Assembly about the rollout of the government’s one-off emergency relief and support package funding. Members would be aware that through the supplementary appropriation of December last year we honoured an election commitment to provide $3.5 million to the community sector to provide emergency relief assistance and to volunteers and carers to help them to meet the costs associated with their role.

The money for these programs was released before Christmas to local service providers for distribution to the community. The measures were put in place because we were aware of the extra pressures that faced families around Christmas time. The additional expenses of the holidays and the arrival of end-of-year bills can push some individuals and families into financial stress.

To help relieve this pressure, $1 million of the funding was provided for emergency relief packages and $850,000 was distributed to regional community services and the emergency relief providers we fund—St Vincent de Paul Society, Salvation Army and UnitingCare Kippax. This assistance has been used for grocery vouchers, petrol vouchers, phone cards, essential household goods, pharmacy supplies, clothing and assistance to purchase school supplies. Some families have also accessed it to help with the costs of purchasing or installing water or energy efficient appliances in the home to reduce utility costs.

The agencies provided with funding for emergency relief have reported a steady demand for assistance. Belconnen Community Service have reported that they are receiving around 35 calls a day for assistance, and so far have provided $18,785 of assistance packages to 35 individuals and families to date.

Northside Community Service has told us that so far it has provided $9,673 in emergency support to 72 individuals and families, which has gone towards items like food, clothing, shoes, support for pain management, dentures and school supplies. Northside Community Service has told us that a large proportion of people who have benefited from this extra assistance were children under the age of 12 years.

Communities@Work have provided assistance to 73 clients in the Weston Creek and Tuggeranong region in the form of food, clothing, school supplies, whitegoods, beds, transport, assistance with moving house, and help with home and yard maintenance and cleaning.

The agencies delivering the emergency assistance are also telling us that they are directing support towards the purchase of bigger items like energy-efficient whitegoods that will have longer-term benefits for low-income people and families in terms of reducing running costs.

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