The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today presented the community sector’s investment priorities to the ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr MLA, at the ACT Economic Recovery Industry Engagement Forum.
The online event, hosted by the Chief Minister, invited input from ACTCOSS and other major industry sectors to help guide the ACT Government as it works to rebuild the Canberra economy, restore growth and protect jobs.
ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “ACTCOSS presented the community sector’s top three priorities for the Territory’s economic recovery in the lead up to the 2020-21 ACT Budget in February 2021.”
ACTCOSS told the Engagement Forum that investments should prioritise sectors that can both drive our economic recovery as well as support Canberrans facing disadvantage, including as a result of COVID-19.
“ACTCOSS called on the Chief Minister to adequately resource the community service sector to support those on low incomes or facing disadvantage; to significantly increase investment in social housing; and to better support Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples to achieve self-determination.
“The Rental Affordability Index released today shows that the ACT remains unaffordable for people on low incomes. Investing in social housing is desperately needed. Canberra faces a shortage of 3,000 social houses with 1,600 people experiencing homelessness.
“However, it also makes economic sense – for every dollar invested in social housing, around $1.30 in total turnover is generated in the economy,” she said.
Dr Campbell continued: “The health care and social assistance sector is one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the ACT as we try to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding and diverse population and an increasing population of older Canberrans.
“Yet we are struggling to meet demand, particularly following COVID-19. In the most recent National Survey of Community Sector Workers, 58% reported that poverty and disadvantage had increased among the people accessing their services; 84% reported demand in the community either ‘increased’ or ‘increased significantly’ and less than 4% reported that they were completely able to meet demand.
“The community sector also makes an important economic contribution. For every $1 a year invested in childcare, we can achieve an annual GDP increase of around $5 and community service organisations in the ACT make a contribution of $2.2 billion to the ACT economy.
“Investment in this vital sector will not only ensure vulnerable members of our community receive support, but will also create new jobs and careers for school-leavers, graduates and those who have experienced unemployment as a result of COVID-19.”
Dr Campbell said: “We also need to invest in services, supports and initiatives that can enable all Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples to achieve full self-determination.
“We continue to see unacceptable rates of disadvantage among Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples in Canberra. Instead we should be empowering communities through community-controlled organisations to make change.
“We also need to empower Aboriginal-owned businesses. In Australia, for every dollar of revenue, Indigenous businesses create $4.41 of economic and social value.
“All the evidence shows the effectiveness of community-controlled organisations and community-owned businesses in bringing lasting social and economic change,” Dr Campbell said.
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.