FUNDING for child sexual assault services and the child protection helpline are on a hit-list as part of cuts of almost half a billion dollars over the next four years to community services in NSW.
The cuts are part of a series of proposals revealed in a leaked departmental briefing note to meet savings targets.
The overall formal savings target for the division of community services is $406.3 million by June 2016, says the document, a figure it states was presented to the cabinet’s expenditure review committee in March.
“Appalled and disturbed” … The Opposition leader John Robertson. Photo: Dean Osland
The document names other budget pressures for the division that must be resolved, such as the need to pay back $25 million borrowed from the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care, and a $6.8 million cost blowout for a new computer system. A further $6.1 million will be cut as a result of the labour cost cap in 2012-13 alone.
The new figure comes after recent revelations of cuts to be applied to other strained state government departments, with $3 billion in savings coming from health and $1.7 billion from education.
The Herald revealed in August that seven programs, including Lifeline, had been recommended for complete funding withdrawal.
A number of other programs have been recommended for cuts or transferral to the Health Department, including the Cystic Fibrosis NSW Family Support Program.
The document states there should be further review of child sexual assault services, with a view to ”service re-configuration”.
As well as outlining potential new cuts, the document, ”FACS Community Services Division: further saving strategies”, dated July 18, states that measures that had previously been ruled out should be revisited in light of the ”significant” savings that needed to be made.
These include withholding the indexation on carers’ allowances and applying an efficiency dividend on some grants programs.
The report notes these measures could result in providers reducing services, thus placing pressures on other government agencies, and could provoke ”extensive media and ministerial campaigns”.
Another measure for consideration is reducing the number of casework managers, which the report states could have an impact on community services’ ability to carry out its core functions, and would have ”serious industrial relations implications”.
The opposition said the scope of potential cuts was ”breathtaking” and the minister should fight for more funds to meet the growing demand for services.
”The long-term cost to society will vastly outweigh any fleeting savings,” said Labor’s spokeswoman for community services, Barbara Perry.
The Opposition Leader, John Robertson, said he was ”appalled and disturbed” that the Premier would allow almost $500 million to be cut from the division’s budget.
A spokesman for the Community Services Minister, Pru Goward, stressed it was an internal document and the figures had not been endorsed by the minister.
”The document is an internal departmental working document which outlines a number of potential budget shortfalls over the forward estimates,” he said. ”These are due to the legacy of the former government which left us with a $1.9 billion budget gap.”
The document states two budget pressures on community services are the efficiency dividend imposed in 2010 and the forecast budget shortfall.