Thousands Missing Out on Govt Assistance
31 May 2010 at 2:03 pm
Thousands of Australians, including carers and the recently bereaved, are missing out on assistance worth $623 million because the government does not actively promote awareness of such entitlements, according to a report by The Australia Institute.
A new analysis by The Australia Institute, called Missing out: Unclaimed government assistance and concession benefits, reveals that across just four Centrelink payments – Parenting Payment, Carer Allowance, Disability Support Pension and Bereavement Allowance – more than 168,000 Australians are likely to be missing out on government assistance they are entitled to.
The report says Centrelink’s guide to payments states: ‘It is your responsibility to decide if you wish to apply for a payment and to make the application, having regard to your particular circumstances.’
Complex paperwork and eligibility criteria are also identified as factors in missing out on support, while one-in-four concession card holders said they avoid using their cards due to feelings of stigmatisation.
Research Fellow David Baker says while there is information about the scourge of welfare fraud and the government cracking down on ‘cheats’, there is little about what it is doing to find those people missing out on assistance they are entitled to.
Baker says that in 2004 the government reported that approximately 1.3 million Australians, the equivalent of one-in-twenty, were missing out on some form of government support. Yet, he says in the six years since this estimate was published there have been no significant policies announced or implemented to systematically identify these people.
The paper recommends: establishing an Entitlements Commission; simplifying benefits and reporting; outsourcing the task of matching people with Centrelink; and applying Centrelink’s existing data-matching ability to identify those who are eligible but missing out.
Welcoming The Australia Institute’s report, UnitingCare Australia’s National Director, Susan Helyar says it’s time for the Government to put a broom through its complex social support payments systems to ensure the right people are getting enough support when they need it.
Helyar supports the call for an entitlements commission that will take decisions about the adequacy of support payments out of the political arena and base decisions on the kind of careful analysis that The Australia Institute and others have provided.
The Australia Institute is a Canberra-based think tank that conducts research on economic, social and environmental issues. The Institute is funded by memberships, donations from philanthropic trusts and individuals, and commissioned research.
The paper can be downloaded at https://www.tai.org.au/index.php?q=node/19&pubid=760&act=display