Welfare Sector Fights ‘Crackdown’
Thursday, 31st March 2011 at 1:06 pm
Just one day after the ACOSS Conference, the Federal Opposition has outlined a crackdown on welfare, with Tony Abbott unveiling a raft of measures including abolishing the dole to people in areas where there are plenty of jobs.
Abbott wants to force the long-term unemployed onto work-for-the-dole schemes, quarantine half of people's benefits to be spent on the necessities of life, and get "non-permanent" disability pensioners back to work.
The two-day ACOSS Conference in Melbourne has only just wrapped up after warning of the dangers of extending welfare quarantining across the country as proposed by the Gillard Government.
The CEO of the welfare peak body, ACOSS, Dr Cassandra Goldie says the Opposition’s plan is mean and extreme and it simply won't work.
She says the policy suggests that people who are unemployed are lazy and simply don't want to work.
She says this is not the experience of the welfare sector.
UnitingCare Australia says better services and supports will ensure long-term unemployed Australians find meaningful, long-term employment.
In a speech delivered at the Queensland Chamber of Commerce, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott promoted measures he says will encourage the long term unemployed into work.
The Opposition Leader called for mandatory work for the dole for people under 50 receiving unemployment benefits for six months or more; welfare quarantining for all long-term unemployed people; for changes to the disability pension which would differentiate between people with permanent disabilities and those who can readily be treated; and suspending the payment of unemployment benefits in places where there are unfilled, unskilled jobs.
But UnitingCare Australia’s National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds says Abbott’s proposed policies are a revamp of old ideas that did not make a dent in the number of long term unemployed people in the last 10 years.
Hatfield Dodds says matching people to jobs is more complex than the simple arithmetic suggested in today’s speech.
She says more real training and education are needed to skill people for long-term job opportunities.
Unitingcare says in its experience most people want to work. They want to participate in their community and contribute to their own well being and to the well being of their families, but often they are not ready for a job.
The UnitingCare network provides social services to over a million people each year in 1,300 sites in remote, regional and metropolitan Australia. The network employs 35,000 staff who are supported by 24,000 volunteers.
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has already warned of "tough love" ahead for young Australians shirking work which will be revealed in a raft of measures in the May Federal Budget, including the extension of the compulsory income management scheme currently operating in the Northern Territory.
Speaking at the ACOSS Conference in Melbourne this week, Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb made no mention of the Abbott plan, however other speakers at the conference came out strongly against a number of the measures proposed by Abbott.
ACOSS President Simon Schrapel told the conference that Australia is seeing the spread of a very insidious disease, with the Gillard government hell-bent on implementing a compulsory income management system.
Schrapel says compulsory income management was a failed system when it was implemented in the Northern Territory, and it failed to address the welfare of children for which it was first designed.
Schrapel described such ‘welfare quarantining’ as fiscally irresponsible and morally indefensible, saying 50 years ago we shifted from a welfare system based around sustenance, to a system focused on the dignity of the recipient. He says compulsory income management undermines this.
These sentiments were echoed by St Vincent de Paul Society's National Council CEO John Falzon who says compulsory income inadequacy, or its accursed cousin compulsory income management, could never address the problem of inequality.
Falzon says instead they do the opposite – they entrench inequality and do not create dignity or liberation for disadvantaged Australians.