No help for unhappy families in the budget
It is regrettable that the Gillard Labor government didn’t bear in mind the theme of this year’s National Families Week when framing its Budget. The theme of the week is “Sticking Together – families in good times and tough times.”
The Gillard government will rip $50 million from family support services from the next financial year.
Family Relationship Centres will suffer funding cuts from January 1, 2012. Although the cut to the centres has been delayed until next year, it is estimated that 2,500 families will receive no service or wait up to three months for an initial assessment.
These are families that are likely to end up in family court litigation without early intervention services.
Bizarrely, almost $17 million will be redirected to legal assistance services. The Government is not only ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’; it seems intent on promoting rather than discouraging costly and emotionally-draining litigation.
Instead of helping families to stick together in good times and tough times, the Gillard government is reducing funding for vital relationship services.
Services which already have long and growing waiting lists will have reduced ability to meet the demand. These are the very services which help families stick together.
Hidden away in the measures is a decision to charge families earning more than $50,000 after the first hour of attendance at a Family Relationship Centre.
In addition, marriage counselling services will have their funds cut from July 1.
Research has shown that as much as seven dollars is saved for every dollar spent on marriage counselling. An Australian Institute of Family Studies survey found that of those who were in an intact relationship, 81 per cent of women and 78 per cent of men remained together as a result of counselling.
Of those who were initially separated, 30 per cent of women and 11 per cent of men had reconciled. Three-quarters said their problem areas, personal life and relationships had improved.
A later study supported the findings, but reported that only an estimated 34 per cent of the need for counselling was being met; hence the expansion of funding and services by the Howard Government.
On top of this, funding for the AIFS being slashed.
While cost of living pressures increase, the Family Tax Benefit supplements are being frozen, hitting many Australian families.
The Gillard government’s decision to slash funding of family relationship services stands in stark contrast to the Coalition policy to increase funding.
It is Coalition policy to provide a $200 voucher to couples getting married that can be utilised on a marriage education, counselling or parenting program. This will potentially assist up to 115,000 couples per year (according to ABS data) and will be in addition to the funding already provided to family relationship agencies.
How can Labor claim to support families when it is penalising some of the most vulnerable?
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