UNICEF: Budget barely gives the world’s poorest and most vulnerable children a look-in

CANBERRA, 3 May 2016 – UNICEF Australia is deeply concerned about what tonight’s budget means for the most disadvantaged children in Australia and our region. Foreign aid has crashed to its lowest ever level, child inequality has widened in Australia and the human and economic cost of offshore detention is unacceptably high.
“Slashing international aid and reducing social services for Australian families has brought support for the most disadvantaged children to an all-time low. Cutting funding from the poorest and most marginalised children is not effective, ethical or fair. It’s time to rebuild, we can do better,” said Adrian Graham, Chief Executive Officer, UNICEF Australia.
This budget reduced international aid by a further $224 million, after a one billion dollar hit last year. Australian aid equates to just 23 cents in every $100 of gross national income. In response to unprecedented levels of global humanitarian crises and more people displaced by conflict, 22 wealthy nations are increasing their aid contribution, while Australia and Portugal are the only two countries swimming against the tide.
Despite concerning overall reductions in financial investment, we welcome the announcement of $220 million over three years for Syria and neighbouring countries to address the protracted humanitarian crisis.
“International aid cuts are undermining the effectiveness of programs that are making a huge difference in the lives of people experiencing acute poverty and disadvantage. The results of sustained investment in children are real and well demonstrated. We’ve nearly halved the number of people living in absolute poverty since 1990 and improved nutrition in developing countries has meant a 41 per cent reduction in child stunting,” Mr Graham added.
UNICEF Australia welcomes recent childcare reforms that increase support for low and middle income families. We remain concerned that the work and activity test exclude the most disadvantaged children and families from participating. The negative impacts will be felt most by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families with life-long impacts.
“New research from UNICEF around inequality indicators show that Australia is plummeting down the global league table, especially in the areas of health and education inequality. Inequality is growing at the bottom end and we need to slow down the widening gap. We particularly support ACOSS’s call for Government to protect the incomes of single-income households.”
UNICEF Australia is also deeply concerned about the human and economic costs of Australia’s immigration and border protection policies.  Detention causes serious, long term harm to children and families.  We have seen shocking evidence again this week with the distressing incidents of self-immolation on both Nauru and Manus Island. Enough is enough.
“The human and economic cost of keeping children and families in detention is far too high and we must work towards a humane and sustainable solution. Australia is spending a vast amount – close to a billion dollars - to keep children and families in detention.  We strongly encourage the government to retarget, reinvest and rebuild its foreign aid program to tackle some of the root causes of displacement, such as poverty, climate change and inequality,” said Mr Graham.
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For further information and interviews with UNICEF Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, please contact:
Nicole Mackey, UNICEF Australia, +61 403 964 334, nmackey@unicef.org.au
Nicole Lawrence, UNICEF Australia, +61 419 748 624, nlawrence@unicef.org.au

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org.au
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