Minister for Human Services
Budget Reply (Part 1)

01 June 2016

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, on delivering our Liberal Government’s third state Budget.  This Budget, like our first and second, gets the balance right.  It is because of our strong fiscal discipline that the Budget is now back in the black.  With the Budget now on track, we can invest the dividends of all that hard work back into protecting and supporting our most vulnerable Tasmanians, a major priority of this Tasmanian Liberal Government.

This is demonstrated by the fact that we have allocated additional funding to the Human Services portfolio of an extra $137.5 million over the next four years.  This includes additional funding of $77 million for the NDIS of $58.4 million, the ERO of $2.6 million, Neighbourhood Houses $990 000, and Strong Families, Safe Kids, $15 million.  As well there is an additional capital funding of nearly $61 million which includes $60 million to implement our Affordable Housing Action Plan to build up to 900 new homes, and $550 000 for Strong Families, Safe Kids.  On top of this extra $137.5 million is an additional $7.2 million allocated to Human Services over the next three years for actions under our nation‑leading Family Violence Action Plan.  This makes a total of $144.7 million in new funding for Human Services across the forward Estimates.

The Human Services budget provides over $260 million in 2016-17 to more than 230 community sector organisations which provide around 500 services to Tasmanians.  The Tasmanian Government is committed to assisting the community sector to absorb cost increases associated with service provision and the Consumer Price Index.  To help with rising costs, indexation will be applied to DHHS-based grant funding at a rate of 2.25 per cent in 2016‑17.  On top of this, as part of our extra $9 million to the community sector election commitment, the Tasmanian Government will distribute an extra $2.5 million in 2016-17 and again in 2017-18.  This means indexation for 2016-17 equates to around 3.15 per cent, which exceeds the projected CPI for 2016-17 of 1.75 per cent.

The Budget also provides $21.25 million to enable community sector organisations to fully meet their obligations and requirements under the Fair Work Australia Equal Remuneration Order, or ERO.  This takes the total ERO for 2016-17 to $25.5 million, which includes a $4.3 million contribution from the Australian Government.  In total, the Tasmanian Government has committed $148.7 million to fund the first eight years of the ERO.

The Tasmanian Government funds 33 Neighbourhood and Community Houses in disadvantaged, rural and remote Tasmanian communities.  As a strong supporter of Neighbourhood Houses, the Hodgman Liberal Government’s third Budget includes additional funding of $30 000 over two years for each of the 33 Neighbourhood Houses, or $990 000 in total.  This additional funding will support a range of activities which improve the lives of families and individuals, reduces social isolation and builds communities.  This new commitment is additional to recurrent support, with funding in 2016-17 totalling around $5.76 million.  The Liberal Government is also investing in Tasmania’s Neighbourhood Houses infrastructure, with almost $1.7 million committed in capital works over the next two years for a new centre which will replace the existing northern suburbs centre at Rocherlea and a new purpose-built centre situated in a more appropriate location to enable easier community access.  A further $417 000 will be spent in 2016-17 from the $4 million Neighbourhood House capital investment program to ensure Neighbourhood Houses are fit for purpose.

The Government is committed to protecting and preventing older Tasmanians from abuse.  In 2016-17, $150 000 is being provided to support the Elder Abuse Prevention Strategy, the goal of which is to ensure that all elderly Tasmanians can live safely as valued members of society who are treated with respect.  From 2017-18, funding for the Tasmanian Elder Abuse Helpline will be recurrent.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is transforming people living with disability, their carers and their families lives.  As per the March 2016 quarterly report, the trial of the NDIS has already seen 1135 young Tasmanians with a disability aged between 15-24 years funded with approved plans.  Transition to the full NDIS will start on 1 July 2016 and will benefit around 10 600 people by July 2019.  Over the 2016-17 Budget and forward Estimates period the department will contribute around $572 million to the NDIS.  The NDIS is also expected to create around 2500 jobs in the Tasmanian disability services sector over the next three years.  To ensure we build up a skilled and capable workforce, the Government has committed $250 000 over two years to the peak body for disability service providers, National Disability Services Tasmania, or NDS Tas.  NDS Tas will continue to implement its workforce development and skills plan in 2016-17 with a commitment of $125 000 to ensure a job-ready workforce by the time the NDIS is fully rolled out.

Clients of Tasmania’s specialist disability system will continue to get their existing supports until they have transitioned to the NDIS.  In recognition of the continued state services in 2014-15 the Tasmanian Government committed an additional $2 million, or $500 000 a year, over four years to deliver extra vital support to people living with disability.  This has provided around 11 700 hours of additional support for Tasmanians with disability waiting for individual support who are not within the 15-24 year age cohort of the state’s NDIS trial.

The Tasmanian Government is committed to delivering a statewide continuum of care from birth to adulthood to children with autism spectrum disorder and has convened an advisory panel to develop a long term strategy.  In 2014-15 a commitment of $1 million over four years was given to support the autism advisory panel in developing the strategy and to implement the Rethink Autism online program in Tasmania.  The 2016-17 budget provides $550 000 over the next two years to further the work of this panel.

In regard to housing services the Tasmanian Government is providing an additional $60 million over three years on top of existing capital funds in this year’s Budget to support Tasmania’s affordable housing strategy 2015 to 2025 and its commitments under the Affordable Housing Action Plan 2015-19.  The Government is investing a total of $178.6 million in 2016-17 to improve housing affordability and to help those most vulnerable to housing stress and homelessness.  Over the next three years the Government is investing around $97.36 million in building affordable housing and in 2016-17 some 624 new houses are expected to be delivered.

Key commitments in 2016-17 for housing services include $20 million in new funds towards supply and reform initiatives under the Affordable Housing Action Plan, $12.7 million in existing capital funds towards housing projects that will also support the Affordable Housing Action Plan and $3.3 million from the housing fund to increase the supply of affordable housing under NRAS.  The Affordable Housing Strategy and action plan provides a comprehensive approach to prevent, intervene early and respond to housing stress and homelessness.  The development of the 10-year strategy was an election commitment delivered in September 2015.  There will be an additional 1600 households provided with housing and homelessness assistance across the four years of the action plan.  This will include new supply of over 900 affordable homes.  The $32.7 million in 2016-17 to support the action plan is in addition to the $22.8 million already allocated in 2015-16 to support the Affordable Housing Action Plan.

Key supply initiatives for 2016-17 include continuation of initiatives commenced in 2015-16, including the private developer, shovel-ready housing; HomeShare; Youth at Risk Response Centre; the dad and kids accommodation facility; the community housing stock leverage program; site supply for affordable housing at Somerset; and to progress land for release at Devonport and Huntingfield.  There is public housing reinvestment by redeveloping sites and delivering new properties to ensure the public housing portfolio is better aligned to the needs of current and future tenants including residents with poor health and mobility.  The Tasmanian Government is also investing almost $102.5 million in 2016-17 to continue to deliver public housing services for Tasmanians in need.

Tasmania is performing the best in social housing supply compared with other states.  Despite having the nation’s highest proportion of low income households, with a third of households receiving their main source of income from Government pensions and allowances, Tasmania has the lowest proportion of social housing applicants compared with the size of its portfolio.  The number of social housing applicants represents 20.2 per cent of the social housing portfolio in Tasmania which is 31 percentage points below the national average.

The Tasmanian Government is investing $24.3 million, plus indexation and equal remuneration order in 2016-17, to provide specialist homelessness services and Housing Connect across Tasmania.  This includes support for short-term crisis accommodation and medium term supported accommodation facilities, as well as the front door intake and assessment role and housing-related support provided statewide by Housing Connect.  It includes financial help into private rentals and brokered accommodation.

Housing Connect was implemented in July 2013 as the one stop shop for people in need of housing assistance.  It now provides support and advice to literally thousands of Tasmanians every year.  Reform initiatives to commence in 2016-17 include:  private landlord incentives to improve access for low income households into affordable rentals; youth head leases to quickly help homeless youth out of crisis and into secure homes; Housing Connect awareness campaign to raise awareness and encourage early referrals for housing support; triage training and SHIP enhancements to make further improvements to the IT system that supports Housing Connect to deliver a more streamlined triage response for clients and investment in more crisis housing beds.

The Tasmanian Government’s Safe Homes, Safe Families Family Violence Action Plan 2015-20 initiatives also have a focus on responding to homelessness, including redevelopment of the Hobart Women’s Shelter with a new site and more crisis beds for women and their children to be delivered, and rapid rehousing from family violence with a pool of 50 homes expected to be achieved statewide in 2016-17.

As part of the Government’s continued investment in the Affordable Housing Strategy, funding of $2.8 million in 2016-17 is being provided to increase home ownership opportunities under the HomeShare Shared Equity Scheme and the Streets Ahead Incentive Program which provides help with the deposit for eligible people who buy a home from Housing Tasmania.  This assistance is in addition to the $1.8 million in 2016-17 in existing funding already allocated to the HomeShare scheme.  To make it easier for more low and middle income Tasmanians to buy their own home, HomeShare has been improved by increasing the asset, income and financial help levels.  Streets Ahead has been increased from $6000 to $12 000, which has encouraged more people on low to moderate incomes to buy a home that is no longer appropriate to retain as social housing.

On top of HomeShare, those wanting to buy their own home can be further assisted by a doubling of the first home builders grant to $20 000, which provides a further welcome boost for Tasmanians wanting to realise the dream of building their first home.