Canberra's homelessness services are bracing for an expected $2 million cut as federal funding runs out for extra wages for workers, a service provider has warned.
ACT independent senator David Pocock has said the government should continue funding the order, calling the cuts "unacceptable".
In 2012, the Fair Work Commission ruled to raise the wages of workers in the social, community and disability sectors, through an Equal Remuneration Order.
The federal government has since provided additional funding to homelessness services to meet the costs of higher wages.
The funding was due to expire in June 2021, but the then-Morrison government extended it. However the agreement is due to expire again in July, and the current government is yet to allocated money to extend the funding.
A spokesperson for the Minister for Housing Julie Collins said the Government was currently seeking an extension of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement with states and territories to support the transition to a new housing agenda.
"The Government will continue to consult on this transition. The Government has an ambitious reform agenda to help address Australia's housing challenges," the spokeswoman said.
Nationally, $65.5 million is expected to be cut to homelessness services, and $2 million, or 7 per cent, will be cut from ACT homelessness services.
CEO of ACT Shelter Travis Gilbert estimates ACT Shelter will lose around $10,000, resulting in fewer beds and having to turn away more people.
"Smaller services are likely to be more heavily impacted because they won't have the ability to cross subsidise by using other programs," Mr Gilbert said.
He said it was "extraordinary" the Labor government was not committing to extending the funding.
"When Labor were in opposition, they were quite strident in their criticisms of the Morrison government, who had intended to cut funding for the Commonwealth share of that order," Mr Gilbert said.
"Now that they're in government, the Labor party has decided that it also doesn't want to be responsible for funding that part of wages, or homelessness and housing support workers.
"What I'd like to see is the Labor party do exactly what it asked the previous government to do, and honour that commitment to frontline workers in homelessness services in domestic and family violence refuges.
"It's quite a dire situation for frontline workers. For the people that do the hard yards, working every day with people in crisis, it's a bit of a slap in the face to place their own housing at risk because the Commonwealth thinks it's okay to walk away from an obligation that it previously supported."
He also said the federal government's cuts will erode the investment the territory government has made into ACT homelessness services.
"At a territory level, the government has increased funding above the rate of the CPI in the last two years, in line with election commitments that it made, but at a national level, the opposite has happened," he said.
"So the benefit of the territory increasing funding will be significantly eroded by the Commonwealth suggesting that it doesn't have to meet these obligations anymore."
ACT senator David Pocock said the federal government should have continued the $65 million in funding to meet the costs of higher wages for frontline staff resulting from the 2012 Equal Remuneration Order.
"Failing to continue this funding will result in cuts to homelessness services from July this year," Senator Pocock said.
"It is unacceptable that frontline service providers like ACT Shelter or Homelessness Australia should somehow be expected to absorb these funding cuts when demand for their services is so high.
"Already 1 in 4 women and children fleeing violence are not getting the accommodation support they need.
"The ACT is the persistent homelessness capital of the country.
"Around half of the total funding the ACT government receives from the Commonwealth for housing and homelessness is returned in payments on our historic housing debt.
"We need the government to do better here."
A spokesperson for the ACT government said the territory government acknowledges and values the crucial role of the homelessness sector and the role it plays in supporting vulnerable Canberrans.
"The ACT is continuing discussions with the federal government and is confident a solution will be found to continue the funding for the homelessness sector.
"We continue to work in partnership with the specialist homelessness sector through commissioning to ensure we are supporting people experiencing homelessness.
"The ACT government is committed to ensuring the homelessness sector continues to receive the level of funding required to continue to provide its essential services to the Canberra community.
"In November 2020, the ACT government invested a further $18 million over four years to expand the capacity of the sector, including a 12.7 per cent funding boost to homelessness services in 2021-22 and 2022-23."
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