Tuesday, 6th May 2014 at 10:51 am
Federal Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has delayed the release of a review of Australia’s welfare system – the interim report not expected now until after the May 13 Federal Budget.
The report was expected to be released before the Budget however a spokesperson for the Minister said Minister Andrews had asked Patrick McClure, who leads the review team, to take Budget decisions into consideration as part of his review of the welfare system.
“Mr Andrews said it was important that the Review Reference Group has the opportunity to review its interim report to ensure the basis of its advice remains relevant to Budget decisions,” the spokesperson said.
“The interim McClure Report will now not be released until after the Budget on May 13.”
Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) Chief Executive Officer Emma King said that with the Commission of Audit and the Federal Budget all taking place concurrently, the delay offered a chance for appropriate consultation with groups that regularly deal with people who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.
She said that so far there had been no consultation in “any genuine way” between the Federal Government and community sector groups.
King said with many community sector reviews, including the welfare review and Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s Indigenous Jobs and Training Review, she questioned whether those conducting the reviews were aware or had the insight into the real issues on the ground.
Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) Acting Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Vassarotti said ACOSS was hopeful that the delay meant the interim report would be more considered.
However, she said ACOSS was concerned that announcements might be made in next week’s Budget that were not informed by such a review.
“We have called for a comprehensive review of the income support system to simplify the system, improve payment adequacy and support people to get a job. We think this is an opportunity to improve the fairness and equity of the system,” Vassarotti said.
“To date however, we have been disappointed by the process. It hasn’t been open and transparent, with no terms of reference or an opportunity for input from the public or all affected stakeholder groups.
“The review panel has hand-picked groups to consult with and the review has largely been conducted behind closed doors.
“It would be disappointing if announcements were made on Budget night before the findings of this review see the light of day.”
Community Council for Australia Chief Executive Officer David Crosbie said the welfare review was too important to be rushed.
“How we structure our welfare payments and support services is critical to the productivity and wellbeing of all Australians now and into the future,” he said.
“Getting it right is critical. A fundamental part of getting it right is allowing time for the intended and unintended consequences of any proposed changes to be worked through with those involved.
“The more time allowed for this process, the more likely it is that a broad range of perspectives will be given due consideration.”
Minister Andrews flagged the welfare review last September, saying he believed the system was ad hoc and needed to be simplified and reformed to encourage welfare recipients into work.
According to a spokeswoman for Minister Andrews, the welfare review would be based on the findings of the Department of Social Services report Income support customers: a statistical overview 2012.
“There is no doubt that income support payments provide a critical safety net for people who are unable to fully support themselves – but those who are capable of working must be better supported to do so, to break the debilitating cycle of endless welfare dependence,” Andrews said in January.