Income Management Policy ‘Ineffective’ - Report
31 July 2013 at 11:41 am
Income Management policies imposed on local communities are not likely to provide an effective solution to complex social disadvantage, according to a Monash University Report.
The report says there is inadequate evidence on the effectiveness of Income Management which undermines the Federal Government's compulsory scheme.
The report, targeting the Income Management Trial in Greater Shepparton, in Victoria examined the official evaluations of Income Management, which are used by the Australian Government to justify expanded programs.
Led by Associate Professor Philip Mendes, Director of the Social Inclusion and Social Policy Research Unit in the Department of Social Work, the study proposed a much broader approach to assessing whether Income Management was improving the lives of the disadvantaged.
Commissioned by Shepparton community service agencies Berry Street and FamilyCare, the report highlights the gaps in knowledge that undermine current assessment about Income Management.
The report made recommendations for an alternative evaluation framework including, examining the choices given to Income Management participants and how key issues of structural disadvantage, such as financial poverty and inadequate housing, have been addressed within Income Management.
“Top-down policies such as Income Management imposed on local communities are not likely to provide an effective solution to complex social disadvantage that has both individual and structural causes,” Associate Professor Mendes said.
“Governments should apply a community development approach that involves working with local communities to identify the causes of problems and potential solutions.
“We recommend an alternative evaluation model, which would arguably provide a better measure of whether or not Income Management is improving the lives of the chronically disadvantaged.”
FamilyCare CEO David Tennant recognised the financial challenges involved in living on a low income. “We believe the best way to produce positive and sustainable change is to help people take control of their own situation,” Tennant said.
“Compulsory Income Management has the potential to undermine confidence and personal resilience.”
Income Management sees Centrelink payments quarantined for spending on essential items only. The controversial budgeting program was expanded beyond the Northern Territory in July 2012 to five new trial sites, including Greater Shepparton in Victoria.
The Australian Greens have called for the abandonment of income management saying the new Monash University report questions the evaluations that have been used to justify the policy's expansion.
"Reports such as this provide us with an insight into income management that the Government is unable or unwilling to provide," Senator Rachel Siewert said.
"By its nature, income management targets deeply vulnerable people, and there are serious doubts about its long term effectiveness.
"Since income management began under the NT Intervention and was expanded under Stronger Futures, the Government has been notorious for delaying the release of reports, spinning the numbers and avoiding proper scrutiny of their policies.
"Despite this, income management has been expanded through Stronger Futures without adequate consultation and it continues to rack up a hefty cost to the taxpayer.
"The Greens support a direct investment in programs and communities that address the underlying causes of disadvantages people are facing. There's no evidence to suggest income management does this over the long term," Senator Siewert concluded.