In a healthy community, no-one would get stuck facing long-term disadvantage. We are all challenged by life’s ‘ups’ and ‘downs’, but for some people the ‘downs’ are much deeper and longer lasting. Early, intergenerational and locational disadvantages constrain opportunities and limit social mobility. This isn’t just bad luck for the people involved; we are all worse off when our social systems don’t protect vulnerable people.
This is because the impacts of poverty and disadvantage do not just fall upon the individual; the gap between social groups has a major effect upon community health. Research has shown that more unequal societies have greater problems with health, mental illness, addictions, crime and other social issues. There is also a direct negative impact on local economic growth. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Every year, the State Budget gives the Victorian Government an opportunity to address the most pressing problems in our communities and shape the future of the state. The Salvation Army’s 2017-18 Victorian State Budget Submission offers a vision of healthy communities where our most disadvantaged citizens get a fair go, allowing them to break out of cycles of disadvantage. Giving priority to those left furthest behind isn’t just the right thing to do for them; it’s the way we build a society that’s better for everyone.
The submission is based on a series of consultations with Victorian Salvation Army services that highlighted three key groups of people who, without adequate supports, are likely to remain in entrenched disadvantage:
- Rough sleepers with complex needs;
- Young people leaving state care; and
- People exiting prison
When they need our help the most, the services available to these groups are too few and too inadequately resourced. It is here that the gaps in our social safety nets are widening; where we have failed to live up to our own standards that give everyone in our community a fair go.
When we fail groups of people such as these, we are all worse off. Ignoring long-term social disadvantage creates higher costs in tertiary systems, such as hospitals and prisons. But attending to them proactively builds social cohesion and healthier communities for everyone.