Federal Budget – Welfare ‘Give and Take’
Monday, 16th May 2005 at 1:05 pm
The 10th Costello Federal Budget has a ‘give and take’ style that has caused a flurry of debate within the community sector.
Welfare umbrella organisation ACOSS has described the funding for jobless Australians as a dangerous game of snakes and ladders.
ACOSS President Andrew McCallum says some people get extra services which give them a push up the ladder into work, while many sole parents, their children and people with disabilities get payment cuts and harsher penalties which will slide them deeper into poverty.
ACOSS says many sole parents will lose $20 a week and many people with disabilities will lose $40 a week in payments.
However, McCallum says new investment in childcare and wage subsidies for long term unemployed people is welcome but the overall investment is modest. Half of all new spending on welfare reform will be taken up in administrative costs.
Snakes in this year’s Budget
– Changes to eligibility criteria for DSP means that around 70,000 people with disabilities over the next 3 years will be deemed ineligible for DSP and lose $40 a week.
– Around 80,000 sole parents with children aged 6-16 years who apply for parenting pensions will be put on unemployment payments and lose $20 a week over the next 3 years.
– Around 25,000 long term unemployed people will have to do Work for the Dole for 25 hours a week for 10 months.
Ladders in this year’s Budget
– 68,000 places in employment programs for people with disabilities was created.
– 80,000 new places in out of school hours’ care.
– 7000 long term unemployed people will benefit from wage subsidies to encourage employers to give people experience working to increase their skills.
Other changes which concern ACOSS in this year’s Budget include:
– ACOSS welcomes increased funding of Indigenous health of $40 million for the primary health care access program, $102 million Healthy for Life program to support maternal and child health and to combat chronic disease in Indigenous communities.
– The increase in the Medicare Safety Net threshold from $300 to $500 for low and middle-income earners will hurt those who have chronic illnesses, and does not address the sustainability of the scheme.
– There are a number of measures to cut costs of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. This includes $140 million in savings from increasing the safety net threshold, $70.1 million from measures to prevent people from hoarding medicines and $36 million from delisting supplements in the PBS.
– $22 billion is provided in tax cuts. Tax cuts that benefit Australia’s highest income earners should be spent on services such as health and education.
– $2.5 billion will be spent on removing the super surcharge – a tax break which only benefits the top 5% of income earners on $100,000 or more.
– Small increases in funding for places in the Language Literacy and Numeracy Program will benefit recently arrived migrants.
– Rising university fees are not being addressed in this year’s Budget and the levels of income support through AUSTUDY and Youth Allowance (Student) remain inadequate.
– More investment in indigenous health is welcome.
– However the details of “Shared Responsibility Agreements” will be critical in determining how changes are made for local communities without reinstating a paternalistic attitude.