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Future school chaplaincy funding missing from Federal Budget, but providers are hopeful

NEWS | Kaley Payne

Wednesday 4 May 2016

School chaplaincy funding is missing from the Federal Budget’s forward estimates but chaplaincy providers say they’re not surprised and still hold out hope for funding beyond the Government’s 2018 commitment.

James Flavin, CEO of Generate Ministries, the largest school chaplaincy provider in New South Wales, says it was unlikely renewed funding for the national programme would appear in this year’s budget.

The Australian reported this morning that school chaplains “have lost taxpayer funding”, with forward estimates suggesting that funding for the National School Chaplaincy Programme (NSCP) would dry up after 2017-18.

“I don’t believe that to be the case at all,” says Mr Flavin. “We’ve got another budget yet [before the current funding commitment expires]. I wasn’t expecting it in last night’s budget. I was expecting it in next year’s budget.”

The NSCP operates at $60 million a year for a four year period, running from 2015 through to the end of 2018, paying chaplains in 2200 high schools.

In New South Wales, Generate Ministries received $3 million of that funding last year, but Mr Flavin says demand for school chaplains far outstripped the funding available.

Last year 438 schools in NSW applied for school chaplain funding. 222 schools were able to be funded. In Queensland, according to Scripture Union QLD, the largest chaplaincy provider in that state, the programme was oversubscribed by about 150 schools. Peter James, the spokesperson for the National School Chaplaincy Association, and head of Scripture Union QLD told Eternity that the same is true on a national level.

“In all states, demand is more than what our funding allows,” said Mr James.

Both Flavin and James told Eternity that school chaplaincy providers continue to look for alternative funding to meet that demand.

“We’ve only ever had a four-year commitment from the Government for the programme,” says Mr James. “The Budget papers are very clear that that funding continues. We’ve got three of those four years to go with the current funding.”

Mr James says school chaplaincy providers have been here before when the last funding cycle was due to finish.

“This [the 2016 budget and forward estimates] could be a flag that there is the potential for funding to cease after 2018. But this has happened before,” says Mr James.

“What’s important now is for the Government to hear from school chaplaincy supporters about the value of the programme that currently serves over a million children across the country.

In an email to NSW chaplaincy supporters, Mr Flavin asked supporters to contact their local federal members and call the Prime Minister’s office to communicate their desire for the programme to continue beyond 2018.

“We work towards seeing a new chaplaincy funding programme being put in place in the May 2018 budget, to commence early in 2019. But we need your help to make that happen,” wrote Mr Flavin.

Speaking with Eternity, he said, “Looking at the success of the programme nationally, I would be quite surprised for the government to turn off the tap.”

 

Government hailed for its “moral courage” in first Turnbull budget

NEWS | Anne Lim

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Wesley Mission in Sydney has hailed the federal budget for its “long overdue moral courage” in tackling multinational tax evasion and superannuation loopholes.

Chief executive Keith Garner described the 2016-17 budget delivered last night as a “cautious social script with an ear for the collective conscience of the community.”

“The budget embraces several measures such as the initiatives aimed at getting 120,000 young people into work by making them job-ready and skilled [the PaTH programme],” he said.

“The government has also shown a degree of long overdue moral courage in cracking down on multinational tax evasion and wealthy superannuation loopholes.”

Superannuation tax concessions were slashed by $6 billion with the savings redirected towards bolstering the retirement incomes of those in low income brackets, predominantly women.

“Wesley Mission … welcomes the lowering of the superannuation contributions cap and the reintroduction of a structure to stop low-income earners from being penalised when they makes contributions to their super fund,” he said.

He also welcomed the flexible superannuation initiatives for middle-income earners and the continuation of funding for financial counselling services. However, he said homelessness remained a national shame and there was little in the budget to tackle the issue of housing and rental affordability.

Uniting Care Australia also welcomed reforms to superannuation concessions as one of several positive measures for which it had been advocating for some time. It also welcomed the programme to help those most at risk of long-term welfare dependency.

“We particularly welcome the Youth Jobs PaTH programme and will work with the government through its Try, Test and Learn Fund,” said Associate National Director Martin Cowling.

However, he criticised the overall result of the budget as reducing taxes for the most well-off while cutting funding to vulnerable groups. He bemoaned the failure to address negative gearing concessions.

“The ‘more efficient’ targeting of social welfare expenditure is simply code for more welfare cuts for the most vulnerable, with more than $2 billion removed from the welfare system over five years,” Cowling said.

Micah Australia, a coalition of churches and Christian agencies, expressed deep disappointment with the government’s decision to proceed with scheduled aids cuts of $224 million. As a result of the budget delivered last night, Australia will give just 0.23 per cent of overseas aid as a share of national income – the lowest level ever recorded in Australia’s history.

“Australia is a wealthy nation with a hard heart and a closed hand,” Ben Thurley, National Coordinator of Micah Australia, said.

“The overall message for Christians in the aid budget is we now are the least generous we have ever been.

“We’ve never been richer but our contribution to the global fight against poverty has never been smaller as a proportion of our income.”

Thurley said his main concern was the impact of across-the-board cuts to programmes to help people in the fight against poverty, which help address pressing issues such as the burden of disease, domestic violence and peace and security in communities.

“All of those programmes are getting cut and those have real impact on people and communities who are trying to overcome poverty,” he said.

Thurley called on all parties to recommit to investing in a generous and effective quality aid programme.

“This is now the fourth time aid has been cut and it needs to be the last time and all parties can now begin to rebuild,” he said.

During the upcoming election campaign, Micah Australia would challenge all candidates to be not just champions for their local electorate but stand up in support for Australia’s contribution to the global fight against poverty if they were elected on July 2.

On other issues related to the fight against poverty, Thurley said Micah Australia would have liked to see much more ambition being unveiled in investment in renewable energy, and support for communities inside and outside Australia adapting to the impact of climate change.

Caritas Australia also expressed deep disappointment in the decision to cut even deeper into a diminished Australian official aid programme.

“Together with Australia’s outstanding contribution through peace-keeping missions, this aid and development role over many decades led to Australia being regarded as a significant leader and middle power,” Caritas Australia chief executive Paul O’Callaghan said.

“While Australia remains one of the wealthiest nations in the OECD group, this latest funding cut will confirm our major turn to insularity and not providing a reasonable share in the global response.

“Australia’s partners in the region and beyond comment with regret that Australia has given up its shared leadership role in combating poverty.”

The Australian Christian Lobby’s National Director Lyle Shelton said it was to the great shame of both sides of polities that they had “walked away from the Millennium Development Goal promise to increase aid to 0.7 per cent of GNI.”

“Given Australia is one of the world’s wealthiest nations, it is deeply disappointing that tonight’s budget sees Australia’s overseas aid cut to the lowest in our history,” he said.

“We are spending just 22 cents per $100 of national income to help the world’s poor.

“ACL will use the election campaign period to encourage both sides of politics to begin rebuilding our aid programme.”

In education, Christians Schools Australia welcomed the government reversing a cut to the indexation rate of funding arrangements announced by previous prime minister Tony Abbott.

“Effectively, it reverts funding growth to the level already provided for in the [2013] Act, so no real gain,” said chief executive Stephen O’Doherty.

The bad news for schools was that current transition arrangements to full “Gonski” funding would finish by the end of next year.

It was a priority to allow  the transition to the full Gonski to play out, he said. Otherwise, the many inequities in the schools system would be entrenched.

Family First senator Bob Day lamented the government’s failure to address the “dying Great Australian Dream of home ownership.”

“The Reserve Bank interest rate cut announcement adds further demand for housing and the government acknowledges that more land supply is required. Yet this budget does nothing to address the problem, such as reducing state grants until states stop gouging the value of public land it releases for housing,” Senator Day said.

On the “disappointing” foreign aid cuts, Senator Day said Family First would prefer an improved trajectory towards 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income. “Current levels are well short of that,” he commented.

Family First would continue to campaign for an immediate de-funding of the “radical and so-called ‘Safe Schools’ programme” (before the funding ends) and for a new, “unbiased and broad-based anti-bullying programme in schools.”

Other areas of great concern were that states would not “pick up the tab” for the schools chaplaincy programme, after its funding runs out, and that the national deficit was not being seriously addressed.

“It represents generational theft against the young people of today, an interest bill of $37 million a day on commonwealth debt,” Senator Day said.

“It is immoral for this generation to fail to address debt and restore the budget to surplus.”

 

 

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