Income Management Skills Training Criticised
3 July 2012 at 9:34 am
A Government scheme set to teach income management skills to disadvantaged families including how to spend their welfare payments has met with criticism by some welfare Not for Profits including St Vincent de Paul Society.
The Government’s controversial Income Management Scheme directs a proportion of a person’s income support and family assistance payments to ensure they are spent on essential items.
Five targeted locations include the local government areas of Bankstown (NSW), Greater Shepparton (Vic), Rockhampton (Qld), Logan (Qld), and Playford (SA).
Those on the program are issued with a BasicsCard – a reusable PIN protected EFTPOS card used to purchase goods and services from government approved businesses. Income managed funds cannot be spent on alcohol, tobacco, pornographic material and gambling products.
Under the Scheme a person participating in income management will receive the balance of their payments in the usual way, such as through their bank account.
St Vincent de Paul Society has called on the Government to reassess its attitude to people living on the edges of society.
“Our members are concerned that the dignity of those living in poverty is being ignored due to increasingly paternalistic policies, such as compulsory Income Management (IM),” St Vincent de Paul Society National Council Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon said.
“The Society strongly opposes the way IM was rolled out in the Northern Territory and holds grave concerns about the Government’s decision to expand the system to other states this month. We are calling for a moratorium on all compulsory IM policies until there is concrete evidence that recipients, who are given a BasicsCard instead of cash, actually benefit from the policy.
“Our fundamental opposition comes from the fact we consider disadvantage to be the result complex social problems and that IM is a simplistic and paternalistic response that is not evidence-based. The high administration costs of IM are of great concern at a time when the community sector is facing higher demand for services and limited funding.”
The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin said it was important people in the five areas understand how income management will work in their community.
The Government said that the training program is to ensure that money is available for life essentials, and provides a tool to stabilise people’s circumstances and ease immediate financial stress.
The five areas were chosen by the Government based on a number of factors, including unemployment, skills gaps, the numbers of people relying on welfare payments as their primary source of income and the length of time recipients have been receiving income support payments.
The IM program will apply to families and individuals in the area including:
- people referred for income management by state or territory child protection authorities where children are being neglected or are at risk
- people assessed by Centrelink social workers as being vulnerable to factors including financial crisis which could include people who are at risk of homelessness due to rental arrears
- people who volunteer for income management
Under child protection income management 70 per cent of parents’ welfare payments are set aside to be spent on essentials such as food, housing, utilities, clothing, and medical care.