DESPITE seeing growing demands from locals for St Vincent de Paul’s emergency relief funds, the Federal Government has announced it will cut grants to Canberra and Goulburn Vinnies by 25 per cent.
The grants, which help people in a financial crisis, will be slashed between 2020 and 2023.
St Vincent de Paul Society president of Canberra and Goulburn, Warwick Fulton, says in 2017-18, the society distributed more than $2 million to the most vulnerable members of the community in the form of food, food vouchers, furniture or medical costs.
“The $335,000 per year grant allows Vinnies to commit to caring for these vulnerable members while we raise donations from the community,” he says.
“We cannot reduce the amount of relief we provide to people who call on us for help in times of crisis, and the effect of this cut will place an enormous strain on the organisation and the services we provide as we expect the number of people calling for help to increase even more.”
Homelessness has grown 14 per cent since 2011 and St Vincent de Paul believes a key drive is due to the Government’s inadequate Newstart payment.
“The lack of political will to fix Newstart requires charities to step in to provide emergency relief and to rely more and more on communities to assist while homelessness and poverty continue to grow,” Mr Fulton says.
“No-one can live on a $272.90 payment in Canberra where the average rental is $540 per week.
“The failure of Newstart to provide stability for vulnerable Australians undermines good health, education and social outcomes.
“Newstart doesn’t help if you don’t have a place to call home or if you are in imminent danger of becoming homeless.
“We find that each day our services are at full capacity – this is a time to increase funding and make long lasting change rather than cut funding.”
St Vincent de Paul Society is now calling on the Government to review its decision.
“In the capital city of the lucky country we have more than 1500 people who are homeless and up to 30,000 living in poverty,” Mr Fulton says.
“Australia wide there are 2.9 million living below the poverty line. These people are not lucky. They face daily choices of paying the rent or having food on the table.
“For many of the people we assist Vinnies is the last option. We work with the most vulnerable and challenged members of our community and we do it because nobody else is there for them, and they deserve the love and support many of us take for granted.”
St Vincent de Paul expects to spend $10 million dollars on emergency relief in the community between now and 2023.