Snapshot Dispels Welfare Myths
3 May 2017 at 2:45 pm
Australia’s “welfare blowout” is a myth, according to the Australian Council of Social Service which is calling for an end to media attacks on people who are unemployed.
ACOSS has issued a Social Security Snapshot highlighting key facts on social security spending and policy in Australia, ahead of this year’s budget, in a bid to correct the perception that large numbers of people receiving social security payments are “welfare cheats”.
According to the snapshot, released on Wednesday, Australia’s spending on income support is actually trending downwards and is low by international standards.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said it was time for the federal government to tell the Australian community the “real story” about social security in Australia and prepare a budget that “genuinely helps lift people out of poverty”, rather than disadvantage them even further.
“It is cruel for people affected by unemployment and low incomes to repeatedly wake up to sensational media headlines which accuses them of being ‘dole bludgers, ‘layabouts’, ‘welfare cheats’ or ‘welfare addicts’. The vast majority of people are doing everything they can to survive and improve their lives under extremely stressful, difficult circumstances,” Goldie said.
“We’re seeing repeated mean-spirited attempts to vilify and demonise people who are locked out of paid work, mostly through no fault of their own.
“This appears to be a deliberate government strategy to pave the way for further budget cuts on the backs of people doing it toughest in our community.”
According to the Social Security Snapshot, inequality in Australia is the highest it has been since the 1950s.
Almost 3 million people, including over 730,000 children, live in poverty, comprising 13.3 per cent of the population.
Goldie questioned why the government was not talking about “the real problems” facing people who were unemployed.
She highlighted the lack of employment opportunities and “effective support” to get paid work, and the rise in long-term unemployment, which has almost tripled since the global financial crisis, as key barriers.
“Right now there is just one job available for every 10 people who are either locked out of employment or need more paid work,” she said.
“Since the global financial crisis, the number of people receiving an unemployment payment climbed from 400,000 to 730,000 (in 2016).
“People affected by the impacts of the GFC, and changes in the economy, are doing it extremely tough. People who are unemployed or underemployed face poverty and desperation.
“As the Brotherhood of St Laurence said earlier this week, young people are job hunters, not dole bludgers. People receiving income support are parents, carers, people with disabilities, older workers and people of diverse backgrounds, facing major barriers to competing in the open labour market.”
The snapshot showed that despite the rise in the number of long-term unemployed people since the GFC, overall spending on unemployment payments had flat-lined, rising slower than GDP.
Meanwhile spending on the age pension has remained the largest area of social security expenditure, quadrupling that spent on unemployment payments ($44 billion versus $11 billion in 2015/16).
Goldie said despite the lack of jobs, governments had “relentlessly targeted” social security for cuts.
“Billions have been slashed, including by pushing about 100,000 single parents and people with disability onto the much lower Newstart Allowance,” she said.
“At the same time, people on these woefully slow social security payments can’t afford to even house themselves. Last week, Anglicare Australia found that just 21 rental properties were affordable for a single person relying on Newstart and not many more for a single parent.”
Goldie said the Social Security Snapshot was “compulsory reading” for anyone who wanted to talk about social security spending and policy in Australia.
“It dispels the great myth that there is anything resembling a ‘welfare blowout’ and that people receiving income support are ‘welfare addicts’,” she said.
“People affected by unemployment and low incomes, now more than ever, need a federal government that gives them hope, cares about their wellbeing, and takes seriously the challenges they face.”
Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said the snapshot blasted a hole in the government’s attempts to justify cuts to the “social safety net”.
“For far too long the government has sought to drip feed stories to the media that paints people accessing the social safety net as ‘dole bludgers’. They’re not, they are carers, people with disability, students, families and jobseekers,” Siewert said.
“Vilifying people accessing the social safety net makes it easier to erode the social safety net in the budget so the government’s intentions are pretty obvious.
“Despite these attempts by the government, the facts speak for themselves.”
The full snapshot is available here.
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