While this Budget's main focus has been about our economy and jobs, we are a government that cares holistically about our people. Our vision is for our people to prosper in our city. But it is also for our people to grow and live full lives; and to live as a supportive community. Even in this difficult economic period, we have made a priority of investing in aspects of liveability and opportunity through this Budget. Initiatives in this Budget amount to more than $220 million. This takes expenditure in 2014–15 in this area to more than $960 million.
Investing in the community
People with disability, vulnerable families, and those experiencing homelessness all receive support from this Budget.
Last year we launched the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We are proud to be leaders in bringing this landmark program into being to support vulnerable Canberrans.
Despite the Commonwealth Government's recent hesitation over the implementation of the scheme, we are continuing to make it a high priority.
The ACT Government will have a strong focus on a whole-of-government effort to invest in the community through a new approach that helps people access the right service at the right time for the right duration.
We are proud in this Budget to launch a groundbreaking trial of improved access and care for people needing housing support, and family and disability services. We have put $2.1 million towards the trial. It will include a Local Services Network Launch in West Belconnen; close to $0.5 million to provide
tailored support to up to 50 vulnerable families; and funding for an information gateway to make it easier for people to find the support they need.
In this Budget we invest $8.4 million for people with disability, including:
- $1.6 million for more school based therapy for children with developmental delays or disability
- $2.2 million for disability care providers to continue to deliver services
- $2.8 million to provide emergency response to clients of Disability ACT.
Out of Home Care services receive a boost in funding of $4.1 million, to meet growing demand for placements of vulnerable children and young people who are placed in the care of Community Services. We will also develop a new Out of Home Care Strategy in 2015-16.
We match the Commonwealth's renewal of shared funding to combat homelessness and care for its victims in 2014–15. Our share of funding reaches $1.5 million.
Support for Common Ground continues. This is a unique initiative to house chronically homeless people and give them access to community and other services.
We are also very proud in this Budget to introduce fairer and easier access to our concessions program, expanding support to those who need it.
- People over 60 years will now be able to apply for concessions on stamp duty for house and land purchases. We want to help people, if they wish, to downsize their houses at the time of life that suits, and free larger houses for families.
- Low Income Health Care Card holders will now have access to a rebate for sewerage bills, as well as for water.
- An increase in the Taxi Subsidy Scheme of 9%, to $24 for ordinary taxis and to $37 for wheelchair accessible vehicles.
Another great change that we have made for people managing tight budgets is to reduce the administration fee for people paying their motor vehicle registration quarterly or half yearly. The charge will now be $15 per transaction instead of $25. Motorists who pay annually will receive a 2% discount.
Investing in the communityIn 2014–15:
- 2,000 families will access Child and Family Centre services
- Over 4,400 people with disability needs will access the services they need
- We will provide housing for Canberrans in need through more than 11,600 public housing properties
Investing in emergency services
Emergency services play a vital role in keeping us safe when we require it the most. Ensuring that our emergency services have the capacity and capability required in times of need is an important focus of Government. This Budget includes funding to protect our community by ensuring our emergency services are adaptive and appropriate for our future needs.
We are building a new, co-located ambulance and fire station at Aranda, replacing the existing Belconnen Fire and Ambulance Stations. $19 million will go towards this project.
$8.8 million will go towards Bushfire Management Capacity.
And we will put $2 million into implementation of the Bushfire Management Plan for Stromlo Forest Park to protect the facility into the future. This will also provide fire protection for the new suburb of Denman Prospect.
Investing in Emergency ServicesIn 2014–15:
- Fire and Rescue services will respond to 90% of structure fires within 10 minutes
- Ambulance services will respond to 90% of priority 1 incidents within 15 minutes
Investing in preventive justice
The Government is also committed to establishing a safer and more productive community through a range of justice and corrections initiatives, which include preventive, corrective and rehabilitative measures.
We are adding to our basic justice sector infrastructure, which needs to grow to match demand. We are redeveloping our Court facilities and expanding the Alexander Maconochie Centre. A new 30 cell Special Care Centre and a new 56 cell flexible accommodation block will be built so that the prison can
accommodate growing numbers of detainees.
At the same time, this Budget focuses on reforms including restorative justice, sentencing reforms and ways to help reduce recidivism. Our Justice Reform Strategy will develop sentencing alternatives for ACT Courts as a result of the Government's decision to repeal periodic detention as a sentencing
option from 2016–17. There are potential benefits from this in terms of social and cost outcomes.
We will research ways of reducing serious crime and recidivism, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
And we will extend the reach of Throughcare, which provides support beyond the end of an offender's custodial sentence to assist their transition to the community and help reduce recidivism.
Investing in Preventative JusticeIn 2014–15:
- Over 60,000 information and referral services will be provided by Legal Aid
- Over 1,950 cases will be legally assisted by Legal Aid