BSL Offers Blueprint for 'Return to Work'
Monday, 28th August 2006 at 1:08 pm
The Brotherhood of St Laurence has flagged an ambitious welfare overhaul that would see single mothers and the disabled offered a substantial ‘return-to-work’ bonus.
BSL’s executive director, Tony Nicholson revealed the proposal in a speech at the Australian National University recently.
He told the audience that governments should take an incentive–based approach to reducing unemployment.
The Brotherhood would like to see the introduction of a one-off Return-to-work Bonus to the two groups of people who find it the hardest to return to work: single mothers of school aged children, in receipt of welfare benefits, and people on disability payments. – something akin to the $4,000 baby bonus.
Nicholson says the payment would reflect the real costs of work-related expenses like new clothing, tools, transport and childcare.
He says the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, introduced just such a scheme in his 2004 Budget and it is working well.
Nicholson used the example of one of his neighbours who is a single mother and dreading returning to work when her youngest turns eight later this year.
She knows that the sorts of low-paid jobs she can get as a battler mum won’t be in the top-of-the-range family-friendly workplaces that young, single female university graduates enter.
She knows that the jobs that will be available to her will inevitably be low paid, and that there is a good chance they will have:
– irregular hours
– split shifts
– and no permanency, sick pay or holiday leave.
Without her Centrelink benefit, she asks, where is her family’s income security, especially if she’s casual or on-call? How will she pay for after school care? Like many single mothers, there’s no large extended family to fall back on.
Getting her two kids to school and other forms of care and getting herself to work on public transport is all but impossible. But she knows that without a job she will be hard pressed to meet the costs involved with her eldest going into secondary school next year.
Nicholson says these are the sorts of problems the unemployed face and the one-off boost provided by the BSL proposed Back to Work Bonus would help them enormously and give them real incentive to get back into the workforce.
He says this is the best form of welfare reform – one that gives people incentive for success, not punishment for failure. It treats everyone as equal and eliminates the big double standard we apply to those at the top and those at the bottom.