2021-22 ACT Budget Delivered

The 2021-2022 ACT Budget was handed down on Wednesday 6th October by Andrew Barr MLA, Chief Minister and Treasurer of the Australian Capital Territory with significant spending outlined in the areas of healthcare, mental health and infrastructure projects.

OTA has prepared a summary of those budget measures most relevant to occupational therapists.

‘The Budget is guided by three principles: investing in healthcare and essential services; protecting and creating jobs; and protecting the most vulnerable Canberrans.’ ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr

‘This budget highlights the many failings of the Labor-Greens government, now attempting to patch up issues after years of neglect and complacency’ Elizabeth Lee, Liberal Leader / Leader of the Opposition

‘A number of issues have not been addressed by this budget. These include gaps in supports for older Canberrans, perinatal health services and community facilities. ACTCOSS is also disappointed that the budget did not include funding for the ACT Carers Strategy or a Disability Health Strategy.’ Dr Emma Campbell, CEO ACTCOSS

The Bottom Line

Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr has brought down a Budget that reflects the challenges posed by the relatively recent spread of COVID-19 through the ACT. Previous Budget forecasts have been jettisoned, with a $951 million dollar deficit now forecast for 2021-22. This is $476.7 million more than forecast in the last Budget, brought down in February of this year.

The government's net debt is also set to increase, from $5.7 billion in 2021-22 to $9.6 billion by 2024-25.

The property sector is currently the Territory’s only high performer, with house prices strong and likely to remain so. The construction industry will benefit from a $5 billion investment in infrastructure over five years.

With the focus squarely on the health of Territorians, there is significant expenditure on hospitals and health services, with little if any on services that can wait, such as the arts. 

Health and Hospitals

The ACT government has committed a further $90 million on the continuing COVID-19 response including vaccination program, Health Emergency Control Centre, quarantine and compliance activities, hospital and testing services, cleaning of public transport and schools, Pandemic Response and Public Information teams.

Over the next 4 years the ACT government will spend more than $500 million on Canberra’s health services to meet the growing demand and increased complexity of health service delivery. Initiatives include:

  • Increasing home-based palliative care services as well as supporting five new inpatient beds at Clare Holland House hospice;
  • New acute medical unit at Canberra Hospital;
  • Increase in emergency surgery capacity;
  • More endoscopy and elective surgeries and post-surgery recovery program;
  • More than 90 additional nurses and midwives across Canberra Health Services and Calvary Public Hospital at a cost of $50.1 million, with the first stage of a phased introduction of minimum nurse / midwifery to patient ratios in 2021-2022.  However no mention in the Budget of additional Allied Health staffing.
  • Sexual health and family planning’ sexual health education, information and support services for people with disability;
  • A patient navigation service for people who are vulnerable or who have chronic or complex conditions; and
  • A dedicated coroner which will reduced delays for bereaved families and friends.

Chief Minister Barr announced an investment in health infrastructure over the next 5 years, totalling $870 million including:

  • Work will continue on the $624 million expansion project of Canberra Hospital with completion expected in 2024. This project will see an increase in operating rooms, emergency treatment spaces and intensive care. 
  • $7.2 million to establish a new Cancer Research centre at the Canberra Region Cancer Centre.
  • Expansion of the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children at a cost of $50 million, expected to be completed in 2022-23.  This will expand existing capacity including within neonatal intensive care.
  • $36.2 million for infrastructure upgrades at Calvary Public Hospital.
  • Planning for new hospital infrastructure in Canberra’s north including additional walk-in centres that provide accessible health care for people close to home at a cost of $13.5 million;
  • Planning for a new surgery centre at the University of Canberra Hospital; and
  • Feasibility and design work for a new mulit-storey car park at the Canberra Hospital

A further $88 million will spent over the next five years to 2025-26 to enhance ACT’s digital health capability.

 

Mental Health

Over $57 million over 4 years in funding for a range of initiatives including infrastructure to support the mental health of Canberrans was announced in the 2021-22 ACT Budget including:

  • $3.6 million COVID-19 mental health support package including funding to support multicultural communities and refugees and asylum seekers;
  • $43 million to provide an additional 10 acute mental health inpatient beds at the Canberra Hospital;
  • Additional high dependent capacity at the Adult Mental Health Unit at the Canberra Hospital;
  • $7.5 million to deliver a phased implementation of integrated face to face digital mental health care for young people through an online platform delivered through the Moderated Online Social Therapy (MOST) program;
  • Funding to support Catholic Care’s Youth and Wellbeing program to provide a multidisciplinary outreach service that supports young people (12-25 years of age) living with mental health concerns;
  • Expanding the Police Ambulance and Clinician Early Response (PACER) service; and
  • Design work to deliver a new community led alcohol and other drug and mental health treatment precinct at Watson including a new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residential alcohol and other drug rehabilitation facility in partnership with Winnunga Nimmityjah.

 

Housing

The 2021-22 ACT budget provides for significant investment in housing over the next 4 years to address challenges experienced in accessing affordable accommodation in Canberra.

Initiatives include:

  • $100 million for new and existing public housing.  Upgrades, maintenance and repairs to the existing 12,000 public housing properties including domestic violence security upgrades and disability modifications as well as the construction of 60 new public housing dwellings;
  • $8.6 million for specialist homelessness services; and
  • $7 million for the operation of the Safe and Connected Youth program to support youth at risk of homelessness.

 

Education

The ACT government Budget announcements included funding initiatives of both services and infrastructure for education over the next 4 years.

Services initiatives include:

  • Over $50 million in additional support for the public education system with a focus on improving equity and inclusion;
  • Additional youth and social workers by 2024-25 to support teachers, students, and families across ACT public schools. No mention in the budget of employing occupational therapists within the education system.
  • $12.5 million for the Set up for Success Program to provide free education to 500 priority three-year-olds for two days per week, 48 weeks per year;
  • Funding for a review of education for students with a disability in ACT public schools and to develop an inclusion strategy, in consultation with students, families and the community;
  • $9.1 million to continue the Muliyan Off-Campus Flexible Learning program to support 30 vulnerable students and continuing to provide culturally safe supports;
  • Initiatives to focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are disengaged or disengaging with education; and
  • $12.9 million for a Future of Education Equity fund to provide grants to disadvantaged families to support them to meet their educational expenses as well as support children who are coming to school without breakfast and lunch.

Infrastructure initiatives include:

  • $99 million to improve the amenity, functionality and inclusivity of schools;
  • $950 million (over the next 5 years) on education infrastructure including the Canberra Institute of Technology; and
  • $12.5 million for feasibility studies, master planning and forward design works for new and expanded schools including specialist school services in the north of Canberra.

 

Small Business

Chief Minister Andrew Barr reconfirmed the ACT government’s commitment to supporting businesses through the pandemic including:

  • Continuation of COVID-19 business support grants, jointly funded with the Commonwealth Government;
  • $46.5 million for the Small Business Hardship Scheme, providing up to $10,000 in financial support to businesses that have been significantly affected during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • $8 million for business recovery across ACT; and
  • $920,000 for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business support package.

 

Families

The 2021-22 ACT Budget outlines an increase in the Safer Families Levy by $5 per year over four years, taking the Levy from $30 per household currently to $50 per household by 2024-25. This will raise a total of $30 million over the next four years which will be used to fund a range of initiatives for people experiencing domestic and family violence including:

  • additional resourcing of $4.1 million for the Health Justice Partnership so that pregnant women and new families at risk of domestic and family violence can continue to receive safe and confidential legal support in a hospital or healthcare setting;
  • continuation of the Family Violence Safety Action Pilot to support the needs of high-risk families;
  • $400,000 to advance priorities in the Fourth Action Plan under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022;
  •  Ongoing support for frontline domestic violence and rape crisis services to address sustained demand; and
  • Implementation of an ACT Domestic and Family Violence Risk Assessment and Management Framework and ongoing work to develop common tools and practices.

The establishment of an Office of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner was also announced in the ACT Budget.

 

Disability Services

There was no specific funding for disability services outlined in the 2021-2022 ACT State Budget. References were made that some initiatives announced would have a focus on individuals with a disability such as funding for a review of education for students with a disability in ACT public schools as outlined above.

Aged Care

Aged care services were not identified for specific funding in the 2021-2022 ACT Budget.

Veterans

The 2021-2022 ACT Budget did not make any provisions of funding for Veterans.

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