The Social Services Portfolio comprises five non-corporate Commonwealth entities and two corporate entities. For the purposes of this statement, this includes the Department of Social Services, the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the Digital Transformation Agency, the National Disability Insurance Agency, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and Services Australia. Hearing Australia is not reported in this statement, as it is a Public Non-financial Corporation (Trading) entity.
The Department of Social Services achieves its mission of improving the wellbeing of individuals and families in Australian communities through the effective development, management and delivery of payments, policies, programs, and services. To do so, the Department of Social Services works in partnership with government and non‑government organisations, including through a delivery network located within state, territory and regional offices.
The Department of Social Services administers around one quarter of the total Australian Government Budget, with effort particularly focused on vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals, families and communities, including those in regional and remote areas.
The Department of Social Services is assisting the Australian Government in supporting Australians, including those in regional and remote areas, to get ahead and build a better life for themselves and their families through economic recovery and financial independence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Australian Government is providing $16.8 billion to pay a Coronavirus Supplement to eligible income support recipients, including JobSeeker Payment, student payments, Farm Household Allowance and Parenting Payment recipients, and to enable broader and faster access to payment for those whose employment has been affected by COVID‑19 pandemic.
In addition, the Australian Government has provided $9.4 billion to pay two separate $750 Economic Support Payments to social security, veteran and other income support payment recipients, and to eligible Commonwealth concession card holders. In the 2020‑21 Budget, the Australian Government will provide another $2.6 billion towards two additional Economic Support Payments of $250 each to around 5 million eligible recipients. This payment recognises the ongoing financial impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic.
Along with the significant COVID-19 response, the Department of Social Services is also providing support to Australians impacted by the devastating bushfires by delivering emergency relief and vital support services in bushfire-affected areas, which were mainly in regional areas.
As at 30 June 2020, the Department of Social Services had 2,333 staff employed under the Public Service Act 1999. Of this total, 1,981 staff (84.9 per cent) are employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 340 staff (14.6 per cent) in other capital cities and 12 staff (0.5 per cent) in regional areas. The Department of Social Services’ footprint includes office locations such as Newcastle, Orange, Bendigo, and Townsville.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies had 96 staff employed under the Public Service Act 1999, all of whom are located in Melbourne, Sydney and Townsville.
The Digital Transformation Agency had 245 staff employed under the Public Service Act 1999, all of whom are located in Canberra and Sydney.
As at 30 June 2020, the National Disability Insurance Agency had 4,394 staff employed under the Public Service Act 1999. Of this total, 466 staff (10.6 per cent) are employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 1,894 staff (43.1 per cent) in other capital cities and 2,034 staff (46.3 per cent) in regional areas. The National Disability Insurance Agency is spread across 142 different towns or suburbs; 33 across New South Wales, 31 across Victoria, 31 across Queensland, 15 across South Australia, 21 across Western Australia, five across the Northern Territory, three across the Australian Capital Territory, and three across Tasmania.
As at 30 June 2020, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission had 219 staff employed under the Public Service Act 1999. Of this total, 156 staff (71.2 per cent) were employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, and 63 staff (28.8 per cent) were employed in other capital cities.
Services Australia collaborates with other Commonwealth and state and territory jurisdictions, providers and businesses to deliver convenient, accessible and efficient services to individuals, families and communities, including those in regional and remote Australia. Services are delivered through face‑to‑face, telephone and digital channels, and include payments and services for social welfare, Medicare, aged care, child support and crisis recovery programs.
The urgency and scale of the COVID-19 response has reaffirmed the importance of the Services Australia vision to make government services simple so people can get on with their lives. To help Australians access financial support in light of COVID-19, a number of changes have recently been made to the JobSeeker Payment, including an improved JobSeeker Payment claim for people who have simple circumstances and need financial support. Further digital transformation initiatives have also been undertaken by Services Australia in direct response to COVID-19, including updated processes to prioritise claims from customers, improved in-app messaging for students, tailored telephone messaging, and enabling authenticated customers to connect myGov to their Centrelink account within the voice messaging system.
In 2020-21, Services Australia will continue to improve and expand its digital services so people can engage at a time and place that suits them, without the need to travel to a service centre. Customers can claim a payment or concession, and update their personal details or report changes in circumstances, through faster and earlier self‑service options online. Services Australia is also increasing its reach across regional Australia by connecting customers through myGov and the development of a digital identity. Residents in regional and remote areas will particularly benefit through reducing the need to visit a shopfront. Many more regional and remote Australians and businesses will be able to quickly and safely access services online, at a time convenient to them.
Services Australia continues to provide face-to-face services through its regional and remote service centres, network of agents and access points, remote servicing teams and Mobile Service Centres, for those who prefer to use those channels.
Services Australia will continue to be the first point of contact for the Australian Government across rural and regional Australia. Along with Services Australia’s significant COVID-19 response, it will provide ongoing support to Australians impacted by the devastating bushfires last summer. Services Australia has been working with the National Bushfire Recovery Agency to deliver Recovery Connect, a service finder that helps people locate and connect to additional support after a bushfire.
Services Australia’s service delivery responsibilities require a flexible, capable and connected workforce across the country, including in rural, regional and remote areas. Services Australia has maintained its commitment to jobs and a physical presence in regional Australia. As at 30 June 2020, Services Australia had 31,808 staff employed under the Public Service Act 1999. Of this total, 5,573 staff (17.5 per cent) are employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 15,683 staff (49.3 per cent) in other capital cities and 10,552 staff (33.2 per cent) in regional areas.
COVID-19 Response Package – income support for individuals and JobSeeker Partner Income Test measures
The Australian Government is providing $18.8 billion to pay a Coronavirus Supplement to eligible income support recipients, including JobSeeker Payment, student payments, Farm Household Allowance and Parenting Payment recipients, and to enable broader and faster access to payment for those whose employment has been affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic.
The measures include:
- A Coronavirus Supplement of $550 per fortnight from 27 April 2020 to 24 September 2020, and $250 per fortnight from 25 September to 31 December 2020.
- Expanded access to JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other), including to permanent employees who are stood down or lose their employment and sole traders, the self-employed, casual workers and contract workers who meet the income and assets tests, until 31 December 2020.
- Waiving the assets test and certain waiting periods from 25 March 2020 to enable earlier access to payment, and reinstating the assets test and Liquid Assets Waiting Period from 25 September 2020 to ensure appropriate targeting of income support as economic circumstances improve.
- From 25 September 2020, changes to the personal income test for JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other) to allow recipients to earn more before their rate of payment is affected and take up work as the economy recovers.
- Temporary relaxation of the partner income test taper for JobSeeker Payment.
These initiatives have a beneficial impact on regional Australia as they provide greater access to income support for those adversely affected by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, around 9,000 people receiving Farm Household Allowance have shared in additional payments totalling around $40 million through the Coronavirus Supplement.
These measures were published in the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update.
COVID-19 Response Package – payments to support households
The Australian Government has provided $9.4 billion to pay two separate $750 Economic Support Payments to social security, veteran and other income support payment recipients, and to eligible Commonwealth concession card holders. Assistance for households was designed to support confidence and domestic demand in the economy. The first payment was made to over 7 million recipients from 31 March 2020 and the second payment was made to around 5 million recipients from 13 July 2020. Coronavirus Supplement recipients were not eligible for the second Economic Support Payment.
This initiative has a beneficial impact on regional Australia as the two payments provided additional support to Australian households and local economies, including those in regional Australia.
This measure was published in the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update.
COVID-19 Response Package – further economic support payments
The Australian Government will provide $2.6 billion towards two additional Economic Support Payments of $250 each to around 5 million eligible recipients. The payment recognises the ongoing financial impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic.
The initiative will provide direct economic support in communities across Australia, including those in regional Australia.
The payment will be made to:
- recipients of Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, and Carer Payment
- recipients of Carer Allowance and Family Tax Benefit including Double Orphan Pension (not in receipt of a primary income support payment)
- eligible Department of Veterans’ Affairs payments and Gold Card holders
- holders of a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and certain Pensioner Concession Card holders (not in receipt of a primary income support payment).
The first payment will be made to eligible recipients from 30 November 2020, if they are eligible for their payment or card on 27 November 2020. The second payment will be made to eligible recipients from 1 March 2021, if they are eligible for their payment or card on 26 February 2021.
COVID-19 Response Package – Social Services
Emergency Relief and Food Relief
The Australian Government is providing an additional $200 million over two years from 2019-20, under the Community Support Package (CSP). The CSP provides funding to more than 300 charities and community organisations to support Australians, including individuals and families in regional areas, in the wake of the COVID‑19 pandemic economic downturn. More than half of this funding has already been allocated, with the remaining funding to be allocated based on emerging need. Under the CSP, additional funding has been provided to:
- Around 200 Australian Government-funded Emergency Relief providers, to provide financial or material aid to people in immediate financial crisis, including temporary migrants. Of these, around 140 providers have received around $17 million to deliver services in regional areas.
- The three Australian Government-funded Food Relief providers, Foodbank Australia, SecondBite and OzHarvest, to increase Australian Government-funded Emergency Relief providers’ access to a cost-effective supply of food items.
- Financial counselling providers, including the National Debt Helpline, to increase service capacity, as well as build the capability of the sector through funding to Financial Counselling Australia.
- Good Shepherd, to increase access to their No Interest Loan Scheme as an alternative to high interest products.
The Australian Government has established the sector-led National Coordination Group to monitor the impact of COVID‑19 and provide advice to Government on the allocation of further funding to where it is most needed.
Domestic Violence Support Package
On 29 March 2020, the Australian Government announced a $150 million Domestic Violence Support Package to respond to expected increases in demand resulting from the COVID‑19 pandemic.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data indicates that 23 per cent of women and 6.6 per cent of men in rural and remote Australia report experiencing partner violence, compared to 15 per cent of women and 5.9 per cent of men in Australia’s major city areas.
Under the Domestic Violence Support Package, the Australian Government has provided $130 million to state and territory governments through the National Partnership on COVID‑19 Domestic and Family Violence Responses to invest in services to support women and children who are experiencing or at risk of violence during the pandemic. This funding was allocated to states and territories on the basis of population, with a proportion of the funding having an additional loading of around $0.8 million for remote and very remote populations.
Commonwealth, state and territory Women’s Safety Ministers agreed the National Partnership funding should be directed to support services considering the needs of particularly vulnerable cohorts, such as people living in regional, rural and remote locations. The National Partnership also includes a focus on providing assistance for specialist frontline services to respond to the unique challenges of delivery in regional, rural and remote locations.
The remaining $20 million was directed to existing or new Commonwealth programs, which are available to people across Australia, including in regional, rural and remote areas. These programs focus on primary prevention, early intervention, crisis response and recovery as well as including a national communications campaign.
Disability Support Package
The following initiatives were committed to, to increase services and support available to people with disability, and businesses providing employment supports and services to people with disability:
- $61 million to provide Disability Employment Service providers, in locations across Australia, with an advance payment of six weeks on service fees (to be repaid before 30 June 2021) to help job seekers with disability to keep their current job, or be ready for new opportunities as the economy recovers.
- $27.7 million for Australian Disability Enterprises, ensuring they can continue to provide employment to people with disability, while dealing with the economic effects of COVID-19, and help them successfully transition to new business opportunities as the economy recovers.
- $2 million to develop a dedicated phone line to provide accessible information, supports and outreach services to assist people with disability, their families and carers across Australia, including in regional and remote areas, to address their concerns about COVID-19, which includes establishing a dedicated Disability Information Helpline.
Family and Community Based Services
The Australian Government has committed up to $64.2 million to 31 March 2021 for the extension of essential service grant agreements administered by the Department of Social Services, where funding was due to cease by 30 June 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. These extensions are designed to minimise disruption to community services and allow funded providers to continue to support Australians, including in regional areas, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 Response Package — Social Services was published in the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update.
Welfare Payments Infrastructure Transformation – tranche four
Tranche four of the Welfare Payments Infrastructure Transformation Program builds on the success of previous tranches and provides $539.6 million over four years from 2020‑21 to progress the modernisation of Australia’s social payments system.
When fully implemented, tranche four will provide all Australians, including those in regional and remote areas, with simple, helpful, respectful, and transparent services. Previously released digital services for job seekers, older Australians, carers and disability payment customers will be extended to families and include functionality such as improved document upload services and enhanced income and assets capabilities that make it more convenient for customers to access services remotely.
The Payment Utility released in tranche four implements improvements to how the Australian Government makes payments. This will give Services Australia greater flexibility to support the Government response in times of emergencies.
Expanding Digital Identity
The Australian Government is providing $256.6 million over two years from 2020-21 as part of the JobMaker Plan — Digital Business Plan measure to deliver the expansion of Digital Identity. Digital Identity is the Australian Government’s single secure, trusted and consistent way to verify identity online, through the digital equivalent of a 100-point ID check. Once verified, people are able to transact as individuals and on behalf of businesses securely online across many services.
Expanding Digital Identity will transform how people and businesses access services in Australia, improving the user experience for all Australians who transact with government online, including those in regional and remote areas. Expanding Digital Identity will see additional government services connected to Digital Identity. State and Territory services will be on-boarded for the first time, maximising choice for people and businesses.
Residents in regional and remote areas will particularly benefit from the initiative through the removal of the need to visit a shopfront to prove their identity. Many more regional and remote Australians and businesses will be enabled to quickly and safely access services online, at a time convenient to them.
This measure builds on the $5.9 million provided in 2019-20 to continue the development of the Digital Identity program, as part of the 2019-20 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) measure Whole-of-Government Digital Initiatives.
COVID-19 Response Package – supporting job seekers
The Australian Government will provide $159.5 million over three years to support job seekers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This includes $52.6 million over two years to ensure New Enterprise Incentive Scheme participants can choose to access the Coronavirus Supplement if they are in receipt of an eligible income support payment, including participants in regional and remote Australia.
This is a component of the COVID-19 Response Package — supporting job seekers measure led by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, published in the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update.
Ongoing Funding for Frontline Social Services Impacted by the Cessation of the Social and Community Services Special Account
The Department of Social Services programs play a key role in regional communities by supporting families, improving children’s wellbeing and increasing social and economic participation of vulnerable people in community life to enhance family and community functioning.
From 1 July 2021, to ensure these programs continue to support vulnerable Australians, including in regional areas, ongoing funding will replace Social and Community Services (SACS) supplementation following the cessation of the SACS Pay Equity Special Account on 30 June 2021. Funding of $132.6 million over four years from 2020‑21 will be included in base funding for the Department of Social Services grant programs.
Services in regional areas often face additional challenges including:
- increased costs of service delivery due to inability to achieve economies of scale across large geographical areas
- recruitment and retention of appropriate staff
- increased cost of living.
The ongoing funding will enable organisations that provide services in regional, rural and remote locations to continue to deliver critical services for vulnerable Australians.
Concessional work test arrangements for Paid Parental Leave in response to the impacts of COVID-19
As part of the JobMaker Plan — Second Women's Economic Security Package measure and in response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, $130.4 million will be provided over three years from 2020-21 to revise the Paid Parental Leave work test period for a limited time. This will enable people to access Parental Leave Pay and Dad and Partner Pay who do not meet the current work test provisions because their employment has been affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic.
This initiative has a beneficial impact on people across Australia, including those in regional Australia, as it provides greater access to Paid Parental Leave for families with a genuine work history pre‑COVID-19.
Currently parents must have worked 10 of the 13 months prior to the birth of their child to qualify but that is being temporarily extended to 10 months out of the 20 months for births and adoptions that occur between 22 March 2020 and 31 March 2021.
This measure is estimated to allow about 9,000 mothers to regain eligibility for Parental Leave Pay and allow a further 3,500 people to claim Dad and Partner Pay.
Future National Redress Funding
In 2019-20 MYEFO, the Australian Government committed an additional $11.7 million in 2019‑20 to increase the capacity of Redress Support Services to support survivors of institutional child sexual abuse and further assist applicants during the claiming process. This funding improved access to the National Redress Scheme (the Scheme) by delivering additional support for people living in remote and regional areas, and increased servicing options for male survivors of child sexual abuse, survivors with disability, and Indigenous survivors. It also strengthened the overall capability of Redress Support Services to deliver trauma informed practice through the development and delivery of additional training and resource materials.
The Future National Redress Funding measure builds on the 2019-20 MYEFO measure and will provide a further $104.6 million to 2023-24 to sustain the operations and outcomes of the Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. This measure builds on the Australian Government’s commitment to improve the operation of the Scheme, improve the survivor experience with the Scheme and address public concerns and expectations.
A key component of this measure is that it delivers Redress Support Services across Australia ($73.1 million over the next four years from 2020-21 to 2023-24). Redress Support Services play a critical role in providing timely, trauma-informed and culturally appropriate support to survivors. This includes providing emotional support for survivors, as well as practical support to complete an application and interact with the Scheme.
Survivors should not need to navigate their redress experience alone. Redress Support Services provide critical care and support to people who have already experienced significant trauma, free of charge. This measure will improve the ability of Redress Support Services to deliver support to survivors living in regional Australia and includes additional funding for outreach activities. This funding will minimise the number of people applying without support and ensure that appropriate assistance is available to Scheme participants regardless of their geographic location.
National Bushfire Recovery Fund
Emergency relief and financial counselling for affected communities
In January 2020, the Australian Government announced an additional $50 million in 2019-20 to increase the delivery of vital support services in bushfire-affected areas, which were mainly in regional areas. This additional funding included:
- $40 million for Emergency Relief services in bushfire-affected communities
- $10 million to increase services delivered by Australian Government funded financial counselling services, including the National Debt Helpline, in bushfire-affected communities.
The Australian Government is committed to assisting people and communities impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires.
This measure is a component of the National Bushfire Recovery Fund measure published in the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update.
Extension of Funding for Financial Wellbeing and Capability Measures
The Australian Government is supporting people under financial stress by providing ongoing funding for Microfinance services (such as no and low interest loans, matched savings and small microenterprises), Money Support Hubs and Problem Gambling Financial Counselling.
This commitment will ensure the ongoing delivery of frontline social services to vulnerable people across Australia, including individuals and families in regional areas.
These services are critical given the growing number of Australians experiencing loss of income and financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The continuation of these measures will have positive impacts on regional Australia, through:
- Supporting people who are unable to pay their bills or are at imminent risk of not being able to pay their bills, to identify options to address their financial situation.
- Improving financial capability by helping people gain basic budgeting skills and financial education.
- Assisting clients to navigate life transitions and/or financial stress or crises, which may negatively impact their wellbeing.
- Improving financial resilience and pathways to mainstream financial services by providing access to savings products and affordable credit products.
The 2020-21 Budget measure builds on the 2019-20 MYEFO measure Extension of Funding for Financial Wellbeing and Capability measures, which provided $10.2 million in 2020‑21, and extends funding on an ongoing basis from 2021-22 at a cost of $44.4 million to 2023‑24.
National Disability Information Gateway
In the 2019 election, the Australian Government committed $45 million over three years from 2019-20 to develop a National Disability Information Gateway (Disability Gateway).
The Disability Gateway is a three-year project to deliver a multi-channelled service for people with disability, and their friends, family and carers. The Disability Gateway is being developed in consultation with people with disability to assist people to navigate disability service systems and help people find out about support and services they may be able to access.
The Disability Gateway Service will start in early 2021 and include a website and dedicated 1800 phone number to connect people to information and services. This national service will be available to regional and remote Australians with disability, their families and carers.
This measure was published in the 2019-20 MYEFO.
Prioritising Mental Health – continued support
The Australian Government is providing $45.7 million over four years from 2020-21 to expand the Individual Placement and Support program which assists young people up to the age of 25 with mental illness to participate in the workforce.
Following a successful trial at 24 sites, this additional funding will expand the program on an ongoing basis and establish another 26 locations taking the total to 50 sites nationally supporting about 2,500 young people each year. The new sites will be co‑located with headspace offices, including in disadvantaged, regional and remote areas. The funding will support an additional 1,000 young people who require mental health support to get into employment or further education each year. The program is complemented by headspace National’s Digital Work and Study Service which offers education and employment support services online to young people with mental health issues across all of Australia.
This measure builds on the 2015-16 Budget measure Youth Employment Strategy — intensive support for vulnerable job seekers.
Digital Skills for Older Australians
The Digital Skills for Older Australians measure bridges the digital divide between older Australians and other Australians. The Be Connected program helps older Australians keep safe online and navigate evolving technology, resulting in improved capacity to use online government platforms and other online services. It also helps isolated older Australians remain connected with family, friends and their communities.
The trial established a network of some 3,000 local organisations and 9,800 digital mentors who have assisted more than 580,000 older Australians since October 2017, using online tools and resources hosted by the eSafety Commissioner. Approximately 42 per cent of the local organisations delivering Be Connected are in regional and remote locations.
Originally a 2016 election commitment, a one-year extension at a cost of $9.3 million was provided for 2020-21, in the 2019-20 MYEFO measure titled Digital Literacy for Older Australians – extension, to continue the trial as an evaluation was being completed. The 2020-21 Budget measure builds on the 2019‑20 MYEFO measure, by extending funding for the measure ($28.3 million over four years from 2020-21 to 2023-24).
COVID-19 Response Package – recognising the impacts of COVID-19 for Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY independence
The Australian Government will provide $25 million to over four years from 2020-21, to 2023-24, to ensure that young people working towards the independence work requirement for Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY will not be disadvantaged by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From 1 January 2021, a six-month period between 25 March 2020 and 24 September 2020, will automatically be recognised as contributing to existing workforce independence criteria for Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY. Without this assistance, around 4,000 young people may not have been able to meet independence criteria and may therefore be unable to access income support.
Young people whose family home is in regional or remote Australia who are required to live away from home to study will benefit significantly from this measure.
More Opportunities for Regional Students: Improved Fares Allowance
The Australian Government will provide $0.7 million over four years from 2020-21 to support students receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy or the Pensioner Education Supplement to access Fares Allowance so they can visit their homes and families more often.
The National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy report (Napthine Review) found that transport costs can be a major issue for students who relocate to study (Recommendation 2, Action 11).
Improving Fares Allowance arrangements will mean that students who receive Youth Allowance, Austudy or Pensioner Education Supplement will be able to access Fare Allowance for the mid-year break in their first year of study. This will also keep students connected with family and community supports to reduce regional student drop-out rates.
This is a component of the Higher Education Reform – additional support for regional Australia measure led by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, published in the July 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update.
Services Australia – provision of remote services – continuation
The Australian Government continues to provide people living in remote areas with access to Government payments and services via telephony services, dedicated remote servicing teams, and the Agent and Access Point network. Access Points provide free self-help facilities such as internet enabled computers, telephones, and free Wi-Fi, and Agents offer the same facilities, and in addition offer general advice regarding payments and services and provide assistance in accessing digital services and complete online forms.
The Government’s investment of $24.7 million in 2020-21 supports the continued delivery of tailored support to Australians with limited or no access to service centres due to geographical, connectivity, or other barriers. During times of emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government maintains its tailored and ongoing support to individuals and community third party organisations via a dedicated telephony service staffed by remote servicing specialist staff.
Australia’s Care and Support Workforce Package
Australia’s Care and Support Workforce Package will support jobs in regional and remote Australia – around 30 per cent of the additional 90,000 jobs in the National Disability Insurance Scheme sector by 2024 are expected to be in regional and remote areas. The package will include communication activities that will improve the perception and understanding of work in the care and support sector, including in regional Australia.
Boosting the Local Care Workforce
As part of the 2019‑20 MYEFO measure Supporting People with Disability, the Australian Government provided an additional $9.1 million to extend the 2017‑18 Budget measure titled Boosting the Local Care Workforce. This measure continues to provide supports to the disability sector by employing regional coordinators to assist organisations to address workforce challenges, ensuring continuous market growth to meet the needs of people with a disability.
The program has a particular focus on boosting local job opportunities in rural, regional and outer suburban areas and includes the expertise of a rural and remote subject matter specialist who provides detailed policy advice to the program. In addition, the program deploys up to 25 Regional Coordinators to work with existing local service providers to assist them in preparing their organisation to deliver services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Building on the 2019-20 MYEFO measure, the Australian Government will provide an additional $16.8 million over three years from 2020-21 to expand the Boosting the Local Care Workforce program to include Aged Care and Veterans’ Care sectors. Coordinators will provide educators and employment service providers with information on demand for workers and support them to connect with providers in the care and support sector. Regional Coordinators provide localised support, gather intelligence on local issues, facilitate workshops and connect stakeholders with complementary programs and initiatives in the care and support sector.
Care Sector Market Information
The Market Information website will provide projected market demand and supply information across the care and support sector. It is expected data will be available by postcode across Australia, therefore supporting regional providers in their decision‑making, such as where to expand operations. The initiative will cost $2.4 million over two years from 2021-22.
National Disability Insurance Scheme Community Connectors – national expansion
The Australian Government is providing $20 million over two years from 2019-20 to expand the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Community Connectors Program.
This initiative has a beneficial impact on regional Australia, as it will support engagement with people who might not otherwise participate in the NDIS, including people with disability from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, those with a psychosocial disability, and ageing parents or carers of children with disability.
This measure was published in the 2019-20 MYEFO.
Incentives to Encourage Young Australians to Undertake Seasonal Work
The Australian Government will invest $16.3 million over two years from 2020-21 to create temporary incentives in the income support system to encourage recent school leavers to undertake seasonal agricultural work and help address the expected critical workforce shortages across the industry for the upcoming harvest season.
A person who earns $15,000 through employment in the agricultural industry between 30 November 2020 and 31 December 2021 will be considered as independent for the purpose of Youth Allowance (student) or ABSTUDY, subject to the Parental Income Threshold, which is $160,000, plus $10,000 for each additional child.
Young people, including those who live in regional or remote areas, will benefit significantly from this proposal if they are seeking to meet the independence test through work before furthering their education to improve their future employment prospects. Agricultural farms, which are predominantly located in regional and remote areas, will also benefit from this measure.
Enhancing the Pension Loans Scheme
The Australian Government is providing $9.6 million over four years from 2020-21 and $1.4 million ongoing from 2024-25 to enhance the Pension Loans Scheme (PLS) to improve the customer experience and make it easier for Senior Australians to draw on their real estate assets to maximise their retirement incomes, if they want to.
This measure provides investment in the IT systems that support delivery of the PLS to improve the administrative and governance systems to ensure Services Australia is able to accommodate growth in PLS demand.
This initiative has a beneficial impact on regional Australia, as it will improve the customer experience for senior Australians in regional areas to assist them in accessing the equity in their real estate assets, should they wish to do so.
This is a component of the Social Services Portfolio — additional resourcing measure.
Placed Based Income Management – continuation
The Australian Government will invest $9.6 million in 2021-22 to ensure that Income Management participants continue to have access to budgeting support and ensure that funds are directed to essential items that benefit participants, and their families and children.
Funding for Place Based Income Management will be extended for 12 months in existing locations, until 30 June 2022. This will ensure recipients continue to be supported in meeting the essential needs of children, individuals and families.
This proposal will have a positive impact on regional Australia as it maintains support for vulnerable welfare recipients on Income Management in regional areas and ensure regional communities are not impacted by welfare-fuelled social harm.
Cashless Debit Card – ongoing funding
This measure provides ongoing funding for the existing Cashless Debit Card (CDC) sites of Ceduna region, South Australia; the East Kimberley and the Goldfields regions, Western Australia; and the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region, Queensland and for the Northern Territory, and the Cape York region in Queensland (pending the transition of Income Management to the Cashless Debit Card in these regions).
Additional funding will also be allocated to support the transition of Income Management participants to the CDC in the Northern Territory, and the Cape York region in Queensland, over two years to 2022. This will ensure that Income Management participants in the Northern Territory and Cape York region, who benefit from Income Management, are supported in their transition to the CDC.
This will continue the positive impacts and effectiveness of the CDC and provide certainty for participants and stakeholders in CDC regions.
Additional investment in CDC technological enhancements will improve the user experience for CDC participants and businesses, and ensure the CDC works as effectively as possible, delivering budgeting support, improved financial literacy and reductions in social harm.
Sustainable Funding for 1800RESPECT
1800RESPECT is Australia’s counselling and support service for people affected by domestic and family violence and sexual assault.
Ongoing funding will ensure 1800RESPECT continues to provide a range of national services (which are also available to regional Australia) such as:
- Telephone and online counselling support services, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- A website with information, resources and referrals for those affected by domestic and family violence and sexual assault, the community and frontline workers.
- The DAISY and Sunny mobile phone applications, which provide information on local domestic and family violence and sexual assault services, and ways for women with a disability to assess their safety with respect to domestic and family violence.
- Sector support through a range of online resources, such as a digital frontline workers toolkit.
The Department of Social Services will conduct a competitive procurement process to secure a provider to deliver 1800RESPECT into the future, commencing in late 2020.
This is a component of the COVID-19 Response Package — Additional Funding for Domestic and Family Violence Support measure.
National Disability Insurance Scheme – transition to full Scheme
From 1 July 2020, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is available everywhere in Australia, including in the Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The NDIS will support an estimated 500,000 people with significant and permanent disability within the next three years, regardless of where they live in Australia. A third of NDIS participants currently reside outside the major cities.
The NDIS workforce is expected to grow by up to 90,000 workers over the next five years to a total workforce of up to 300,000 workers. Of the total workforce, around 30 per cent will be in regional and remote areas.
Full scheme arrangements, putting in place long-term funding and governance arrangements for the NDIS, commenced in Queensland from 1 October 2020. The NDIS is operating under full scheme agreements in all jurisdictions other than Western Australia, which is still under a transition agreement. Full scheme in Western Australia is scheduled to commence in 2023.
On 28 August 2020, the Australian Government announced a substantial package of reforms to the NDIS. This includes the implementation of the Australian Government’s response to the 2019 Independent Review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 and the new NDIS Participant Service Guarantee setting new service standards and clear timeframes for decision making by the National Disability Insurance Agency. The reforms will make it easier for participants and their families to navigate the NDIS, including people living in remote communities.
This measure was published in the 2019-20 MYEFO.