NFPs Fight for Family Payment Reforms
19 November 2015 at 10:54 am
Major peak bodies and Not for Profits have claimed that the latest Turnbull Government’s Family Payments legislation will increase poverty in Australia at a Senate Inquiry into the changes.
The organisations include the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), UnitingCare Australia, National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations, National Welfare Rights Network and Down Syndrome Australia.
The Inquiry is into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill 2015.
Managers from the Department of Social Services will be last to give evidence. The Deputy Chair of the Senate Committee, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, said the new Bill is the third time the government has “rejigged” the legislation.
The new Bill amends the Family Assistance Act 1999 to increase family tax benefit (FTB) Part A fortnightly rates by $10.08 for each FTB child in the family up to 19 years of age.
It restructures family tax benefit Part B by increasing the standard rate by $1000 per year for families with a youngest child aged under one; introducing a reduced rate of $1000 per year for single parent families with a youngest child aged 13 to 16 years of age and extending the rate to couple grandparents with an FTB child in this age range. It removes the benefit for couple families (other than grandparents) with a youngest child 13 years of age or over; and phase out the family tax benefit Part A and Part B supplements.
It amends the Social Security Act 1991 to increase certain youth allowance and disability support pension fortnightly rates by approximately $10.44 for recipients under 18 years of age.
UnitingCare told the inquiry that there was no evidence in the proposed Bill to clearly indicate that the changes it puts forward will improve the situation of payment recipients already experiencing hardship.
National Director of UnitingCare Australia, Lin Hatfield Dodds, said the Government should release modelling that shows the net impact of its proposed changes on different kinds of families, particularly those who rely heavily or solely on income support.
The peak body for community and social services, ACOSS, said it has long advocated for reform of the family payments system but is concerned that the proposed reforms will cause serious financial harm to many low income and vulnerable families, including single parent families who have already experienced a number of cuts to payments in the last decade and are at high risk of poverty.
It told the inquiry that the Bill is likely to increase the poverty rate in Australia.
Director of Policy at ACOSS, Jacqui Phillips, said although the current Bill will be less severe in its impacts than those proposed in 2014-15 Budget, the changes remain very harsh.
“Unlike the age pension changes, this Bill does not seek to better target payments to lower income families while tightening access for those on higher incomes. It will affect those on the lowest incomes the most, including single parent and low income couple households,” Phillips said.
ACOSS said the numbers affected and the extent of the income losses mean that the changes are likely to lead to an increase in child poverty, noting child poverty is already concentrated in single parent families.
“The Bill being considered by the Committee does not meet these objectives and should be rejected,” the ACOSS submission said.