Aspect Special Edition: COVID-19

Aspect Newsletter

From the Executive Director

Editorial: Building back better

Kasy ED 4_pref

The coronavirus, or COVID-19, has laid bare the weaknesses in our society.

The global financial crisis, the summer bushfires, and the many other disasters in between drew upon individual generosity but did not change the underlying structure of society.  During the financial crisis, I wrote that I hoped that the close call for many would soften how we responded to those less well off, and that more cautious consumption could lead us to a more sympathetic environmental footprint.  Neither came to be on a large scale, as we forgot en masse and again became busy being productive.

This time, this crisis is different.  None of us can be truly cushioned.  Intergenerational wealth won’t help, and neither will being young or fit guarantee immunity from the worst effects.  This time the health of every single member of the public rests upon the weakest plank of our society’s structure.

Hence we are seeing one by one those horrifically weak planks being addressed. How can we guarantee the public’s health when half of Australian workers don’t have access to paid leave entitlements?  When so many people live in barely affordable rental properties? How can we avoid a huge increase in the homelessness? And how could we expect people living on the lowest unemployment benefit in the OECD to stay healthy and protect themselves, their families and those around them?

Doubling the rate of the Jobseeker payment (Formerly Newstart), real action on getting homeless people off the streets, opening private hospitals for community benefit, giving one-off payments ad leave entitlements for people in precarious work, wage subsidies – it’s an impressive list!

Time will tell what additional benefits are gained from each of these. But there are still some left behind. Each time the lowest income group is lifted, it uncovers new inequities.  At the moment people living on the Disability Support Pension need urgent support as they struggle with increased food prices, and often with health vulnerabilities. Those on the aged pension, especially those who don’t own their own home, will be struggling. Carers are yet another group yet in need of attention in this pandemic.  And people are still sleeping rough in some jurisdictions, including here in Canberra where the overnight temperature dropped to five degrees on the weekend.

As people are starting to look into the future there is talk of ‘getting back to normal.’ I am resisting that narrative.

What is normal about the precariousness of having millions of Australians with no leave entitlements? With a two-class workforce where half of the people have career progression, training and leave, while the rest swirl around in a peripheral job churn of casual hours, underemployment and the gig economy? Where people are locked out of major parts of our society like the housing market, or even look to a superannuated future in their old age?

What is normal about a housing market that favours wealth development over home and shelter?  This is surely an opportunity to swing the balance to recognise that renters need security and home, which is difficult with ‘no-fault evictions’ and short-term leases.

How could we intentionally go back to a system which deliberately excludes and actually pushes out Aboriginal and First Nations people, denying their culture and custodianship?

How can we go back to taking more from the planet that it is able to repair? Australia has had a shameful record on the extinction of species, with 1,790 species as on the brink in 2019 before the catastrophic bushfires.

We must not move on too quickly from the dual disaster which was the ongoing drought and the bushfires over the last summer, both direct results of our shameful stewardship of this beautiful continent. The health and wellbeing of many rural and regional communities were already worn coming into this latest disaster.

The list goes on. But it is clear the way we were is not something we should aspire to get back to. A society that was built on poverty being seen as an individual failure, on the environment being treated as an economic nuisance, while government policies  shift money to the top quintiles of society and reward environmental damage.

With the first part of the response to the pandemic posited to take six months, we have time to plan and to imagine.  We have long pointed out that a society is what we choose – we are the architects, we are the citizens.

The community sector has a particular role to play.  We are the first responders in disasters.  Our people are on the frontline handing our material aid, advice and often comfort.  Our services do form a safety net for people in personal disaster.

But we are also far more than that.  The community sector at its best is society at its best.  Anglicare Australia members support relationships and communities, inspiring volunteers to join us. We are able to look ahead and imagine what life could and should look like. We provide services that are the safety net – but we are also part of the rich and deeply woven fabric of those communities.

We will be working over the next months to not only ensure that we don’t leave anyone behind in the initial response to this pandemic, but to look towards a fairer and better world.  We will work hard to not getting back to normal, but to building back better.

National Office News

National Office News: Supporting members through COVID-19

Anglicare Australia launches COVID-19 Announcement Tracker
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been multiple announcements made by the Federal Government and National Cabinet. Many of these are relevant to our work, and several initial announcements have been updated and revised multiple times already.

To help our members track these measures, we have prepared a COVID-19 Announcement Tracker. The document brings together announcements relevant to the Anglicare Australia Network. It also includes the dates of the announcements, and the dates of any revisions to these announcements, to help ensure you are getting the most current information.

This document focuses on announcements made by the Federal Government and National Cabinet. In the coming weeks, we will include relevant announcements from States and Territories. We expect to update this tracker once a week, but may make more frequent updates if there are major announcements affecting our Network and its work.

Click here to download the Anglicare Australia COVID-19 Announcement Tracker.

COVID-19 media updates now available for Anglicare Australia members
To assist Anglicare Australia Network members to stay up to date on the latest news during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be collating a major news stories each day.

Anglicare Australia will send these daily updates to member CEOs, and to members of the Anglicare Australia the Media and Communications Network. The updates are also open to anybody else who works in the Anglicare Australia Network.

If you would like us to include any additional members of your team, please forward their details to Anglicare Australia’s Director of Media and Communications, Maiy Azize.

To subscribe to daily news updates during the COVID-19 pandemic, email [email protected].

Anglicare Australia helps secure moratorium on evictions – but more action needed
Anglicare Australia has said that the moratorium on evictions, announced by the Prime Minister, was a good start for renters.

“This announcement means that renters cannot be evicted because of financial stress. This is a major step forward,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

Anglicare Australia is now awaiting the detail of how this will be implemented by states and territories. Although tenants cannot be evicted because of financial distress, tenants can still be evicted for no reason at all in most parts of the country. Tasmania has now announced that it will halt no-grounds evictions in the wake of this agreement and we hope other states and territories will follow this example.

Anglicare Australia has also expressed disappointment that the Code of Conduct for leases, announced this week, left out residential renters.

“The Code of Conduct was a lost opportunity to provide fairness and clarity to renters once and for all.

“State and territory leaders have now agreed to rent relief for commercial tenants, helping them avoid a debt trap. Residential renters trying to keep a roof over their heads deserve the same respect. Mounting debts for renters would be a recipe for disaster.”

Click here to read Anglicare Australia’s media release on the announcement of the moratorium, and here to read our call for more relief. Click here to read our earlier call for the moratorium.

Anglicare Australia calls for more support for aged care in the wake of COVID-19
Anglicare Australia has joined a group of five aged care industry bodies to say that the government’s $445 million funding boost is not enough for already struggling providers to maintain essential services during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government announced a second aged care funding package, adding to the $101 million announced on 11 March. It includes a retention bonus for residential and home aged care workers; support continuity of workforce supply; and a temporary funding increase to the viability and the homeless Supplement.

The alliance of provider and advocacy bodies includes Anglicare Australia, Aged and Community Services Australia, Leading Age Services Australia, Aged Care Guild, and Baptist Care Australia. The group welcomed the additional support for the sector, but noted that it falls short of what already financially distressed providers require to maintain all essential aged care services during COVID-19.

Click here to read more about our joint statement.

New emergency relief funding announced
On 29 March, the government announced that $200 million will be provided to support charities and other community organisations which provide emergency and food relief as demand surges as a result of coronavirus. Anglicare Australia has since met with the Minister Ann Ruston and is working on a model for delivery with six other providers.

The funding will boost support to services where demand is quickly increasing, including:

  • Emergency Relief
  • Assistance for food relief
  • Services through the National Debt Helpline
  • Financial counselling
  • Expanding access no interest loans

Click here for more information on the announcement.

Wage subsidies are only the start
Anglicare Australia has said that the government’s wage subsidy is a good start – but more must be done to support those in need.

“Countless Australians work in industries that have been hit by this crisis. We must make sure they don’t miss out on the wage subsidies announced by the government,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

“Millions of people across the country are in casual work – but many will be left out of these subsidies. Only those who have been in their job for a year or more will qualify. Others might be left out if their employer doesn’t opt-in, or find that the amount is too low.

“This announcement is a great start. Now we need to make sure that everyone who loses work gets the same, strong assistance from government.”

Click here to read Anglicare Australia’s media release. More information about the JobKeeper Payment is available here.

Charity workers must not be left out of JobKeeper payments
Anglicare Australia says the government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy could leave thousands of charity workers behind.

“Charities are seeing huge falls in their income – but the JobKeeper scheme will still leave many of their workers out,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

“Charities are run differently from businesses. Our budgets are not just about simple profits and losses. Grants that are used to carry out one aspect of our work can’t be used to fund another aspect of our work.

“That means that if we’re seeing major losses in our childcare services or from our op shops, we can’t prop them up with funding from other grants. These losses mean that some charities will have to stand down a huge number of workers – but still won’t be eligible for the JobKeeper payment.”

Anglicare Australia is working with the government on options for charities as the subsidies are implemented.

Click here to read Anglicare Australia’s media release.

Government temporarily doubles unemployment payments
The government has temporarily doubled JobSeeker payments (previously Newstart) in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including some related payments.

Anglicare Australia has campaigned for a raise to the rate of Newstart for years, and welcomed this change. However Anglicare Australia is concerned that many cohorts have been left out of the increase.

“The doubling of Newstart will give badly needed relief to those who need it most. But pensioners, people with disabilities, carers, and migrants have all been left out of payment increases. We hope the government will correct this as soon as it can,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

“People will be recovering from this pandemic for months and years to come. It’s shown us that we need a safety net that works all the time, and payments that support people whenever times get tough.

“That’s why we’ll keep pushing for a permanent raise to the rate of Newstart, a stronger wage subsidy, and a system that treats people with respect at all times.”

Click here to read Anglicare Australia’s media release. More information about the JobSeeker Payment is available here.

Time to guarantee every Australian a basic income
Every Australian must be guaranteed a basic income to assist during this unprecedented public health challenge. Anglicare Australia has called on the Federal Government to overhaul its income payments in this time of unprecedented health and economic crisis.

“Every Australian who is currently unemployed or becomes unemployed in this crisis should receive the same assistance from government, and those payments must be much higher than the current poverty trap,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

“Last year the ABS reported that Australia now has more employed people without leave entitlements than with. This puts us in an appalling position to deal with the public health crisis facing us.

“The saying is, “in crisis, opportunity”. This pandemic is an opportunity for the Federal Government to provide vital economic stimulus and to keep Australians healthy and safe by guaranteeing enough income for those who are most vulnerable, protecting the health of everyone.”

Click here to read Anglicare Australia’s media release.

Anglicare Network News

Anglicare Network News

Changes to upcoming Anglicare Australia network meetings
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected several Anglicare Australia meetings, including Human Resources leaders, the Financial Wellbeing Network, the Research Network, and the CEO Forum and Advocacy Day.

For more information on these changes and any other virtual activities that may be organised instead, contact the convenors or members of the groups directly. If you’re unsure who to contact, email [email protected].

Media and Communications Network meets in Sydney
The Anglicare Australia Media and Communications Network held a meeting Friday 6 March in Sydney. The meeting included sessions on pitching stories and building a media presence; using media for advocacy; and running successful campaigns.

As well as sharing expertise on these areas within the Network, the meeting also featured external presentations and sessions with Purpose Australia, the Environmental Defender’s Office, the Australian Council of Social Service, People With Disability Australia, and the Australian Conservation Foundation. Slides from the day are available to all interested members.

The meeting was generously hosted by Anglicare Australia Network member WorkVentures, and featured a tour of the WorkVentures facilities. More information about WorkVentures is available here.

To find out more about the meeting, contact Anglicare Australia Director of Media and Communications Maiy Azize on [email protected].

First Nations Staff Network holds first mini-conference
Anglicare Australia’s First Nations Staff Network held its first mini-conference in Sydney on 6 March. First Nations Staff Network participants work in many different areas and have diverse subject matter expertise.

The mini-conference explored governance issues for the network, engagement with the Anglicare Australia National Conference and Awards, cultural capability issues, and staff development among other issues. The event was facilitated by Violet Green, and was held at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence.

To find out more about the meeting, contact Anglicare Australia Policy and Research Officer Ellen Bugge on [email protected].

Research and Resources

New research and resources for COVID-19

COVID-19 Announcement Tracker
Anglicare Australia
To help our members track new measures as they are announced, Anglicare Australia has prepared a COVID-19 Announcement Tracker. The document brings together announcements relevant to the Anglicare Australia Network. It also includes the dates of the announcements, and the dates of any revisions to these announcements, to help ensure you are getting the most current information. The tracker is available here.

Under Pressure: Aged Care Performance Summary
Ansell Strategic
This report from aged care strategists Ansell Strategic says many already beleaguered aged care providers are now at even greater risk of insolvency and closure because more residents will likely die during the COVID-19 pandemic, triggering a payout of hefty residential accommodation deposit balances. The report is available here.

The Possible Economic Consequences of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic
PricewaterhouseCoopers
PwC has undertaken economic modelling to estimate the potential impact of coronavirus on the global economy. The approach adopted is conceptually similar to that employed by the Commonwealth Treasury in its modelling of the SARS outbreak of 2002-03. This report looks at the findings of this modelling. The report is available here.

JobSeeker Payment: A Quick Guide
Parliamentary Library
From April, the Newstart Allowance will be renamed JobSeeker Payment. At the same time, Sickness Allowance and Wife Pension will cease. Recipients of Sickness Allowance will move onto JobSeeker Payment along with some recipients of Wife Pension. Bereavement Allowance will be replaced by new arrangements using the JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance. This guide provides background on Newstart Allowance and changes associated with JobSeeker Payment, as well as details on who will receive the payment. The guide is available here.

Policy, consultations and grants

Policy, consultations and grants

Update: Inquiry into homelessness in Australia
In the previous edition of Aspect, Anglicare Australia invited member input on the Inquiry into homelessness in Australia. This inquiry has now been suspended in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anglicare Australia will provide further updates when the Inquiry is reopened.

Inquiry on the lessons to be learned in relation the Australian bushfire season 2019-20
This inquiry will explore lessons to be learned in relation to the preparation and planning for, response to and recovery efforts following the 2019-20 Australian bushfire season.

Submissions are open, and are due to close on 9 April 2020. More information is available here.

Inquiry into the NDIS Workforce
This inquiry will look at the issues surrounding the NDIS workforce, including size, composition, challenges in attracting staff, and how NDIS workforce issues interact with other sectors.

Submissions are open, and are due to close on 16 April 2020. More information is available here. Anglicare Australia is considering making a submission, and feedback from members can be sent to [email protected].

Inquiry into general issues around the implementation and performance of the NDIS
The Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme is conducting this rolling inquiry, which aims to identify broad systemic issues relating to the implementation and operation of the Scheme. After 30 June each year, the committee reports to Parliament on recurrent issues that have arisen and offers recommendations intended to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Scheme.

Submissions are open, and no closing date has been nominated. More information is available here.

Sector Events

Sector Events, March-April 2020

Changes to upcoming Anglicare Australia network meetings
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected several Anglicare Australia meetings, including Human Resources leaders, the Financial Wellbeing Network, the Research Network, and the CEO Forum and Advocacy Day.

For more information on these changes and any other virtual activities that may be organised instead, contact the convenors or members of the groups directly. If you’re unsure who to contact, email [email protected].

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