Jan Barham, the Greens’ spokesperson for the North Coast, Aboriginal Affairs, Housing, Ageing, Disabilty and Community Services, has called on the re-elected Coalition Government to adopt a more caring and strategic approach with a priority focus on housing and community services for areas of high vulnerability and disadvantage such as the North Coast.
“The high levels of people who are unemployed, aged, have a disability and receiving income and parenting support payments is an indication of the disadvantage and vulnerability in our region. The risk is that if priorities don’t change with the next government we will see a continuation of vulnerability that can result in intergenerational disadvantage. Without changes there could be more people living in poverty and excluded from full participation in society,” said Ms Barham.
“There must be a focus on investing in communities to deliver fairness and improved opportunity to participate in all aspects of life. It’s time to look at the needs of this community and prepare for the future, with a more caring and compassionate approach.
“In this election campaign the Greens prioritised a boost in social housing with funding of $4.5 billion to build 20,000 homes over 4 years. With some of the longest waiting lists in NSW, there should be a significant increase on the north coast. The lack of affordable housing is threatening the health and wellbeing of the community and putting many at risk of homelessness, especially the young, the elderly and Aboriginal community members.
“Many older people living in caravan parks are facing unaffordable rent increases or eviction, with no other options available. NSW needs new legislation to provide the security and affordability required for our valued older citizens living in parks and villages.”
The Greens are also calling for secondary dwellings grants to assist property owners to build for the aged and disabled.
“We need to deliver appropriately designed and dedicated housing to allow people to stay living in community rather than being forced to move away from their neighbours and families. Funding support at a local level would grow the stock of housing needed and retain community cohesion,” said Ms Barham.
Ms Barham noted that with an ageing population, the NDIS, domestic violence, child protection concerns and a significant Aboriginal population, the region needs additional workers in the community services area to address and prevent risk for the most vulnerable in our community.
“Some of the disadvantage experienced in the region could be overcome with a greater investment in early intervention services and additional workers. The community service sector is in need of additional staff and the Greens are calling for a training financial assistance scheme to encourage and support more people entering the caring workforce. The need for increased Aboriginal specialist services is crucial and would create much needed employment opportunities as well as culturally appropriate services,” said Ms Barham.
Taxis are the main form of transport for some residents who have significant disabilities to allow them to access medical, health and work opportunities.
“The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme has not been increased for 16 years and this is grossly unfair. An increase in this vital service would benefit inclusion for those who are otherwise disadvantaged, especially in the regions,” Ms Barham said.
Ms Barham also warned that recent funding cuts by the Federal Government to parent and youth services have shown a lack of foresight and investment in the future, which the NSW Government must work to rectify.
“The Greens call on the State Government to lobby against the Federal Government funding cuts to important programs that support young people at risk and that provide skills for the transition to adulthood and independent living, and to make up for any shortfall in federal funding as they have done for pensioner concessions. The funding cuts to important programs that support new parents are a dangerous move that puts child welfare at risk, and which will end up creating additional social harms and put pressure on state services in child protection, juvenile justice and other sectors,” said Ms Barham.
“It’s time to overcome the history of the major parties ignoring the needs of the regions. While North Coast seats were a major focus in this election and coal seam gas was an especially crucial issue, the wellbeing of North Coast communities has been off the radar for too long.
“Without a commitment to social infrastructure investment for the region, there will be continuing disadvantage. The true test of a progressive society is how well we care for those in need and plan for the future wellbeing of all of our residents.
“The Greens are committed to caring for the most vulnerable in our society. I will be focusing on these issues when Parliament resumes, hopefully with two new North Coast Greens members in the Legislative Assembly to echo the focus for the region’s communities,” Ms Barham concluded.
For further comment, contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891
Planning for a more caring community
- Investment in social housing – announced $4.5 billion to deliver 20,000 new homes in NSW over 4 years
- Financial grants for the delivery of appropriately designed secondary dwellings for older and disabled people – $20,000 per property
- Care Workforce Strategy – grants to assist people in training in the community sector – aged, disability and child protection and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
- Residential Parks protection – legislation to secure the rights of people living in residential parks against high fees and eviction
- Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme – increase funding that has been stagnant for 16 years
- Youth programs – return funding to crucial youth programs that have been cut by federal government eg. Links to Learning, Youth Connections and REALskills – approx. $700,000 for region