Page 2399 - Week 08 - Thursday, 6 June 2013

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Budget—community sector

MS PORTER: My question is to the Minister for Community Services. Minister, could you please advise the Assembly about measures announced in this week’s budget for the ACT community sector?

MR BARR: I thank Ms Porter for the question and for her ongoing interest in the community services sector. This budget, this week, invests significantly in creating opportunities for all Canberrans. It invests in a number of transformational social reforms, most particularly DisabilityCare and the national education reform agenda, and transformational infrastructure projects to provide jobs and sustainable economic development for our city’s second century.

The 2013-14 budget combines community service system reform with targeted support, evidence-based investment and resourcing for cost-of-living pressures to ensure that all Canberrans are able to reach their full potential. It sees the ACT government exercising responsible expenditure restraint to fund high-priority community sector services.

It is this approach that has seen the 2013-14 ACT budget introduce and continue significant expenditure to support vulnerable Canberrans. In this budget there is over $30 million worth of new funding for vulnerable Canberrans across disability services, support for vulnerable children and families, funding for housing and homelessness, infrastructure and services and funding to further support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The 2013-14 budget also continues to address cost-of-living pressures and includes $3.6 million for the targeted assistance strategy to provide more flexible arrangements to manage motor vehicle infringement notices for Canberrans most in need.

For Canberrans eligible for concessions programs, funding will be increased in 2013-14 to raise the energy concession by 10 per cent, from $292 to $322, to increase the secondary bursary scheme from $500 a year to $750 a year, to invest $235,000 in a 12-month extension for the trial of bulky waste collection, a free service for pensioners and concession card holders who have limited capacity or financial ability to dispose of large items, and also to reduce the qualifying age for seniors gold card holders from 75 to 70 years. This is worth $620,000 over four years and will provide free bus travel for nearly 9,000 additional members of our community.

During the development of the targeted assistance strategy, the sector made it clear that the concessions program made a real difference in the lives of Canberrans doing it tough. The government has sought to consolidate information on all ACT government concessions in a single spot, the single assistance website, to provide better access to the range of assistance and concessions available.

I am pleased to advise the Assembly that since all of this information has been consolidated in one space, there have been 77,000 visits to that website in its first

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