ACT News

Government funding boost to help charities for Christmas

A trio of Canberra charities have blamed the struggling ACT economy for an increase in demand for their services this Christmas, which has prompted a one-off government funding boost.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced on Thursday a $150,000 grant to St Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army and Uniting Care, Kippax to help them meet the needs of struggling Canberrans.

Salvation Army Major Gary Masters said he had seen an enormous increase in need this Christmas period compared with last year. 

Last year the provider's ACT division helped 868 families. This year it estimates between 950 and 1000 families will be helped before Christmas. They have also received about twice the number of donated large toys this year.

Mr Masters blamed economic factors of increased power bills, rents and general prices and said pay and household budgets had not increased in line with them.

However, in one positive, charitable donations to the Salvos of items such as children's toys had doubled, indicating better-off Canberrans were helping charities meet the challenge.

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Uniting Care, Kippax executive officer Meg Richens echoed Mr Masters' reasons for the increased demand, adding the ACT's current employment market as a factor.

This year was the first time appointments at the centre had been booked out for people seeking food. 

So far this Christmas the Uniting Care branch has helped between 500 and 600 families, already surpassing last year's figure of about 500.

Both Mr Masters and Ms Richens noted the importance of focusing on the credit card bills that start arriving after Christmas. "Those in the social services know what happens in January," Mr Masters said.

Uniting Care will be focusing on helping families with school uniforms and equipment.

St Vincent de Paul Society in Canberra and Goulburn president Frank Brassil blamed the cost of housing for part of the increased demand on charity services. He wanted particular attention paid to homelessness policy and public investment in affordable housing.

The new funding is in addition to the government's $1.2m Emergency Material and Financial Aid Program. The money goes towards food parcels, transport assistance, vouchers for food or clothing, payment of some bills, clothing, bedding and manchester.

Mr Barr said in the medium-to-long-term stimulating the economy is a priority. 

"Having a job is priority number one," he said.

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