Failing Welfare System Highlights Need for Reform: Greens
Monday, 15th August 2011 at 5:21 pm
Green Senator Rachel Siewert.
Photo: Ryan Witcombe
A sharp increase in the number of people being turned away from community support services highlights the need for substantive reforms to Australia’s social security system according to the Australian Greens.
The Australian Community Sector Survey found that Australian community and social service organisations are unable to meet the demand for their services as more people turn to them for help.
Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson for Community Services says the survey shows community organisations are facing increased pressure to make their resources stretch further.
The 2011 survey recorded a 12% increase in assistance provided by agencies, with respondent organisations (745) providing services on 6,180,282 occasions in 2009-10 compared to 5,513,780 instances in 2008-09.
Fifty-five percent of organisations indicated that they were still unable to meet the demand for their services, with people being denied services on 345,000 occasions – a 19% increase on the 298,000 people turned away in 2008-09.
This means 1 in 20 eligible people seeking assistance from social services in Australia was turned away.
Senator Siewert says it is unfair that community organisations are being used to pick up the pieces of a broken system. She says the overarching message is clear – the system is failing and needs fundamental reform to reverse this trend.
Siewert says the figures released by ACOSS show the impact of a widening gap between income support payments and the cost of living.
The ACOSS survey has found that community service organisations are facing an increasing demand for services across the spectrum – including housing, aged care, emergency relief and financial support services.
Siewert says unfortunately in more and more cases, people are being turned away because demand is outstripping supply.
Siewert says she is especially concerned that the Government and Coalition continue to discuss punitive welfare measures rather than addressing the fact that income support payments are failing to even cover the basic living costs for many people. This gap continues to widen and the impacts on the community sector will increase accordingly.
She says the punitive approach being taken to income support serves only to demonise vulnerable people, despite clear evidence that our system is failing them. As a prime example, many Australians living with a disability will be forced to live on less money on Newstart Allowance under the new changes to the disability support pension.
In an interview on ABC Radio, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council, John Falzon warned that the recent riots in the UK show the dangers of leaving people disengaged and disillusioned.
Falzon told interviewer Naomi Woodley, that people who are living in a permanent state of recession, even during the economic boom time are disproportionately affected by a further downturn.
Falzon said what is needed is a rethink of the whole way social security is done in Australia; the demonisation and blaming of people who remain unheard must end.
Falzon says there is a need to engage in policies that remove barriers, tear down the walls rather than making those walls higher.