WIMMERA Uniting Care is bracing for an influx of people seeking assistance as a result of Tuesday night’s Federal Budget.
The agency predicts a combination of additional taxes, reductions of family tax thresholds and the fuel excise will result in financial strain and increased stress for the most vulnerable people in the community.
Acting chief executive Leeanne Thomson said it was still unclear exactly which services would stay and which would go.
“We are concerned that potential cuts to financial counselling services and emergency relief services will compound the issue and mean there is less assistance available for people when they need it most,” she said.
Ms Thomson said the budget was a ‘kick in the guts’ to low income earners, youth, people with disabilities and rural communities.
“There are a few really worrying elements in this budget from our perspective,” she said.
“Essentially this budget will result in people paying more for fuel, medical expenses and education but have less money in their pockets to work with.
“It will place increased pressure on the budgets of hard-working Wimmera families and could result in having to make the choice between going to the doctors and having a prescription filled or topping up with basics like bread and milk for the week.
“When you have young children they’re always sick. It’s awful to think children might not get the medical attention they need because of the associated costs.
“The fuel excise hurts rural and regional areas the most because we don’t have the public transport services or infrastructure for people to travel from A to B.
"We depend on our cars for both home and business – there is no feasible alternative.”
"It could result in having to make the choice between going to the doctors or topping up with basics like bread and milk for the week.''
Ms Thomson said young people were going to find it increasingly difficult to go to university, given tuition fees were likely to rise and additional interest would be added to all HELP debts.
“And, if you finish university and don’t find work straight away, you won’t be eligible for Newstart allowance for six months,” she said.
“That’s assuming you’re over 25, because anyone under that age isn’t eligible and will have to stay on Youth Allowance.”
Ms Thomson said Wimmera Uniting Care had applied for funding through a number of philanthropies to provide financial literacy programs to the community.
She said the organisation had not yet heard the outcome of those applications.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed because people are going to need help to reassess their budgets and know exactly what they are eligible for and how to access services,” she said.
“Access to financial counselling is already difficult, given recent State Government cuts in that sector.”