UnitingCare Australia is the Uniting Church’s national body supporting community services and advocacy for children, young people, families, people with disabilities and older people. The Uniting Church’s commitment to community services is an expression of the Christian vision of inclusion and equality of opportunity for all people and communities regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ability, class, colour, creed or cultural origin.

The White Paper should recognise and describe energy as an essential service.

UnitingCare Australia takes up community service issues within the theological framework of the Uniting Church, particularly the Church’s social justice perspectives. We develop and reflect on the policies and practices of the Uniting Church in community services. We pursue appropriate issues within the Uniting Church, with Government and the community sector, with the Australian community and with other parts of the church.

The current meaning of charity and charitable purpose is largely defined at common law, which has developed over 400 years. It has generally served the community well however a number of reviews and inquiries over the years have recommended that the common law meaning of charity be restated in legislation.

The Major Energy Users Inc (MEU) proposed a rule change to the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) in November 2010 in relation to the “potential exercise of market power by generators in the National Electricity Market (NEM).” The MEU represents some 20 large energy using companies across the NEM and in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, including iron and steel, cement, aluminium and mining industries. The rule change was suggested to address the potential for generators to raise average wholesale electricity prices by more than necessary to recoup their long-term costs. The problem with this kind of power in the marketplace it is can create a ‘barrier to entry’ for new and smaller generators. The AEMC released a directions paper in September 2011 with a very strong focus on defining what ‘substantive market power’ means in the context of the market.

The Government's decision to undertake a competitive tender of the Disability Employment Services – Employment Support Services program for contracts with a performance rating of 3 Stars or below (out of a maximum rating of 5 Stars) is far too wide in a growing and high performing employment support system. We believe tendering 80% of the current contracts is not only poor policy but has the very real potential of penalising the very people for whom this program provides essential support.

UnitingCare Australia believes the Productivity Commission has provided a potentially transformative framework for the funding and administration of support and care for people living with disability in Australia. Along with other organisations that work and advocate with people living with a disability and their families and carers, we support the proposals made in the draft report regarding:
• The establishment of a nationally funded disability care and support entitlement based scheme that is adequate and sustainable, and will ensure consistency and transportability throughout Australia.
• The focus on person-centered approaches, and decision making by individuals and their families about what services will be used and how services are delivered.
• An emphasis on inclusion in community life and local solutions.

This submission was developed by BlueCare, the Queensland based aged care service that is part of the UnitingCare network. BlueCare has significant expertise in quality improvement in aged care, on which this submission is based. Other services in the UnitingCare network have endorsed this submission and support the commentary and recommendations made.

UnitingCare Australia would like to commend the Productivity Commission for the consultative and forward looking work they have done so far. UnitingCare supports the broad architecture and directions for reform that are being suggested by the Productivity Commission and particularly appreciate that the work provides a platform for the sector and the government to work together to implement a staged reform process.

UnitingCare services provide specialised problem gambling services and also work closely with people affected by problem gambling in urban, regional, rural and remote communities via programs that deliver emergency relief, financial counselling, prisoner support, mental health, relationship, youth, family support and homelessness services. A significant demand for these services is driven by the impacts of problem gambling.