Welfare Reform Submissions Low
Tuesday, 12th August 2014 at 11:52 am
The Federal Government has received just 60 submissions to its controversial welfare reform draft report – many are from individuals outside the Not for Profit sector.
The Federal Government’s Interim review into Australia’s welfare system, headed by former Mission Australia CEO Patrick McClure was released for consultation in June.
The review, called A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes, identified four main pillars of reform: simpler and sustainable income support system; strengthening individual and family capability; engaging with employers; and building community capacity.
The Not for Profit sector was given six weeks to respond.
So far only 19 submissions have been published on the Department of Social Services website mostly from individuals outlining their experiences of the welfare system. It’s understood that up to 11 submissions came from the Not for Profit sector.
A spokesperson for the Department said submissions would be progressively uploaded on the DSS website over the coming week.
“The Reference Group will be reviewing these to help inform their final report which is due later this year,” the spokesperson said.
Submissions from the major Not for Profit peak bodies are yet to be published online.
However, peak welfare organisation, the Australian Council of Social Service, in its submission has called on the Federal Government to set up an independent commission of experts to develop a benchmark for rates of the new payment.
ACOSS said there was a need for major overhaul of the social security system for people of working age, proposing a single or “common” income support payment with added supplements depending on a person’s need, similar to the “Universal Credit” in the United Kingdom.
It also wants the Federal Government to abandon its harsh Budget measures that pre-empt and undermine the Review.
“The social security system for people of working age is complex, unfair and it undermines employment participation. The system is broken, and tinkering at the margins won’t fix it,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
“People with the same financial needs receive vastly different payments and those on the lowest payments such as Newstart Allowance receive as little as $35 a day. A carer, person with disability or sole parent who moves to the lower Newstart Allowance loses up to $170 a week in income for no valid reason.
“To qualify for higher payments people have to prove they cannot engage in paid work. This is counterproductive and it means too many people are being ‘written off’ in the jobs market. Payment levels should be based on people’s financial needs now, not their future employment prospects.
“We believe the best solution is to remove the distinction between pensions, allowances for unemployed people and student payments and replace them with a common income support payment for people of working age, based on essential living costs.
“Under this model, people with extra costs – including the costs of a disability, caring for a person with disability, and raising a child alone – would receive supplements on top of the common income support payment. These supplements would extend to many people on low to modest wages.
“The levels of payment needed by people to meet basic essential living costs in Australia today should be based on recommendations by an independent Commission of experts. This would help ensure that payment rates are based on objective assessment of financial need, not the opinions of decision-makers that some groups ‘deserve’ more or less than others.
“Comprehensive payment reform will take time. In the short term, the Government should adopt the sensible calls in the Interim Report to improve Newstart and other allowances for single people – as was done for people on pension payments.”
Australia’s major church providers released a statement of key principles for a fair and effective welfare system in the lead-up to the submission deadline on August 8.
Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia, The Salvation Army and UnitingCare Australia have urged the Welfare Reform Reference Group to keep the principles in mind when reviewing feedback on the report.
And the group has called on the Federal Government to establish a benchmarking process for minimum social security payments that are adequate for all.
“We believe that there must be a social safety net, which provides an adequate level of income to people who aren’t earning enough through paid employment to enable a decent quality of life. This safety net is an important protection against poverty, and should be able to be relied upon by every person in need,” the submission said.
Another submission from Jesuit Social Services said the Federal Government’s welfare reform must focus on opportunity over punishment.
With the Federal Government’s proposed welfare changes and the overhaul of the work for the dole system in the spotlight, Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards has called for support to get vulnerable people back into work including a Jobs Plan providing paid work experience opportunities for young people.
“Over recent months, the Federal Budget and reviews of aspects of our society’s safety net have suggested that so-called ‘welfare dependence’ should be tackled by expanding punitive measures such as work for the dole and income management,” Edwards said on the release of Jesuit Social Services’ submission to the Federal Government’s Review of Australia’s Welfare System.
“We already have a highly targeted welfare system with a strong work focus, and in our work with vulnerable Australians we continue to see a deficit of opportunity rather than dependence on welfare.”
The organisation’s submission outlines a range of recommendations and strategies around building the capabilities of welfare recipients so that they can more fully participate in the community.
The submission said a key element was a Jobs Plan providing opportunities to young jobseekers and people with disabilities.
“If we are serious about creating pathways through learning and work, then an obvious starting point is a Jobs Plan which provides strategies and investment in work opportunities for vulnerable Australians,” Edwards said.
“We know the long-term impacts of youth unemployment. As part of a Jobs Plan there should be a guarantee of paid work experience for at risk young people. This could be modelled on successful Future Jobs Fund from the United Kingdom, in which 100,000 people aged 18-24 were guaranteed paid work for six months, and new roles were created in a range of government, community and private sector organisations.
“Work experience opportunities can play an important role in wider pathways through learning and into work. These pathways for vulnerable people must be strengthened, so that they can more effectively engage people, build foundational skills, and provide learning and work opportunities.
“We believe that all people have inherent value, and have the ability to contribute to Australia,” the statement said.
“Participation and engagement requires access to income, healthcare, education, essential services, and housing.
“We believe that, as a society, we all have a responsibility – individually, in business, via our government, and through our communities – to enable access to the resources people need to live their lives with dignity and respect.
“As the peak organisations we provide a substantial share of the care and support services across Australia, working daily with Australia’s most vulnerable and marginalised people.”