Agencies anticipate welfare demand bottleneck

South Australia's Catholic welfare agencies have commended the State Government for bumping up mental health and disability funding in the 2005 Budget, but warn commitment well beyond the 2006 state election is needed to meet a bottleneck in demand.

The Southern Cross reports that $50 million in one-off funding announced in the 2005-06 Budget is the first step towards treating the accumulative shortfall of under-resourced mental health and disability services across the state.

"The mental health sector and disability money is a good down payment, but the Government is not off the hook yet," said Vicar General, Monsignor David Cappo (pictured).

"The Government has given us a positive signal but a lot more money needs to flow before people with mental illness and those with physical and intellectual disabilities are treated with proper dignity in South Australia."

St Vincent de Paul chief executive officer John Haren said: "This seems to be a budget that's more hopeful for people at the lower income levels but I think there has to be more signals."

Recurrent funding aside, Catholic organisations St Vincent de Paul, Centacare, Diocesan Community Access and Ain Karim will collect a total of $128,440 from a one-off $25 million funding injection to be shared by more than 100 non-government disability service providers over the next two years.

Centacare has also been tipped to be among hundreds of community organisations and GPs expected to share a one-off $25 million boost to mental health services.

"The budget announcements suggest the message has gotten through but there still is a long way to go before we meet the need," said Centacare director Dale West. "It's certainly one of the best budgets we've ever seen, but we're still behind the eight ball."

Meanwhile, the Southern Cross also reports this month that an Adelaide city Catholic meal centre for the homeless has recorded a 30% increase in the number of people requiring food despite the start to one of the warmest winters on record.

Run by the Daughters of Charity, the Hutt Street Centre served 43 extra people hot meals in May compared to last year, according to internal audit figures.

Of the 193 people lining up for breakfast, almost half reported sleeping in Adelaide's streets, in squats and in cars, with the remainder seeking refuge in night shelters, boarding homes and community housing.

"I've been here 11 years and when I first started we were only serving 35 breakfasts and [now] we are serving on average 110," said Ian Cox, executive director of the Hutt Street Centre.

Mr Cox told the Southern Cross that the increase was unusual even after factoring in the closure of another Adelaide breakfast service for the homeless last year.

"The traffic in the morning [is extraordinary], within one-and-a-half hours of opening we have got people streaming through for a shower or a hot cup of tea," he said.

'Government not off the hook yet' on disability funding (The Southern Cross, July 2005)
Homeless numbers up at Catholic meal centre (The Southern Cross, July 2005)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Adelaide
St Vincent de Paul Society (South Australia)
Hutt Street Centre (Daughters of Charity)

6 Jul 2005