Thursday, 22 June 2023

Labor plan fails to provide funding or detail to address social issues

A document quietly tabled in the Parliament last week has verified the serious challenges the Cashless Debit Card was starting to address in Hinkler before the Albanese Government dumped the card.

Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said the Local Services Plan for the Bundaberg/Hervey Bay region had little to no detail on how these long-standing issues in the community would be addressed.

“All of these issues were identified prior to the Cashless Debit Card being introduced, that’s why we introduced it. Then Labor abolished it and now releases a report saying, these are significant issues,” Mr Pitt said.

“What I demand to know from the Minister is how much worse have these issues got in the 12 months since the Cashless Debit Card was thrown out?

“The community needs identified in this plan affect thousands of people and they’re issues that we knew about five years ago – before the Cashless Debit Card trial started in Hinkler – and now according to Labor’s report, these systemic issues will be improved under a voluntary ‘Smart Card’ that only 22 people are on.

“According to the plan, the Albanese Government is ‘committed to extending existing support services and deliver a range of new initiatives. But there is no information on what these initiatives are, where they will be based, how much they will cost and where the funding will come from. Are these just more deceptive or delusional empty promises from the Labor Government?

“Throughout the Cashless Debit Card trial in Hinkler I repeatedly asked for data to determine the effectiveness of the card, but it was never released. This was information that the Department had and chose not to release. Ironically, priority 1 of the plan is to collate data from the Department of Social Services and State Government departments.

“Priority 2 is collaboration and ensuring that local service providers are working together, but they already do. Organisations across all the cities and towns of the electorate were and largely, still are collaborating, including Impact and the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre were funded as local partners to refer participants to existing services in the community, so I want to know what Labor propose to do differently.

“The plan revealed that numerous stakeholders identified concerns around alcohol and other drug use, with data provided by the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service noting that 37.6 percent of adults in the region were risky drinkers in 2019-2020.

“The need for rehabilitation and detox facilities was recognised as a priority years ago by Queensland Health that is supposedly being addressed by a new facility in Bundaberg committed by the State Labor Government in the 2020 election, which construction hasn’t started on yet.

“There were also concerns about significant wait times for people needing mental health support. Again, this is an issue that is well known, with difficulties in recruiting psychiatrists and psychologists to the area.

“An increase in family and domestic violence incidents and demand for services is also identified in the local service plan, as well as wait lists blowing out for support services for families and children experiencing family violence.

“Service providers raised a number of issues around unemployment including intergenerational unemployment and welfare dependency, unwillingness to work, and a mismatch between required skills and applicant skills, leaving a significant number of vacant jobs.

“In March last year, the Coalition Government delivered $4.7 million to be shared between five organisations to upskill, build job readiness and provide intensive support to unemployed young people in Hinkler to help them into the workforce.

“These community-driven initiatives were in addition to existing programs including Transition to Work, Local Jobs Program, and the Youth Jobs PaTH program.

“The Minister for Social Services needs to tell my community how and when these issues verified in her government’s plan will be addressed and how much it is going to cost.”

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