Families Australia: submission to the Reference Group on Welfare Reform to the Minister of Social Services in response to the Interim Report ‘A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes’

(This is an extract of the full submission. Please contact Families Australia to request a copy of the full version)

Summary

Families Australia appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Interim Report of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform to the Minister for Social Services.

The growing complexity of the architecture of the system of payments and supplements has meant that many people find it increasingly difficult to navigate the system, with some missing out on much needed support, both financial and non-financial.

Current payment rates, particularly Newstart and Youth Allowance, are insufficient to keep individuals and families with children out of poverty, and can thereby act as a hindrance to successful job-seeking activity.

It is of grave concern to us that an increasing proportion of Australia’s children are growing up in poverty (Wilkins, 2013). Adequate income support payments would help to address this.

Families Australia believes that the essential principles of any welfare reform must be that income support payments are fair and adequate, and the potential for deleterious effects on family stability and child wellbeing are considered in relation to the level and security of payments, the imposition of participation requirements, limits on access to payments and/or other sanctions.

While we broadly support the four pillars of reform, we have concerns about some possible unintended consequences in their implementation for relatively small groups of very vulnerable people and families at serious risk of intergenerational disadvantage.  These concerns are discussed below in responses to those questions from the Interim Report which are most relevant to policy areas in which Families Australia works.

Recommendations

  • An income support system that is fair and adequate, with a single-tiered payment for working age people with supplements for additional costs where relevant.
  • Participation requirements which are reasonable, meaningful, and genuinely contribute to an individual’s capability to gain employment.
  • Participation requirements which take into consideration an individual’s responsibilities as a parent and/or carer.
  • An integrated system of support services that work in tandem with income support payments.
  • A nationally consistent carer allowance for grandparent and kinship carers which is not dependant on the legal status of the carer.
  • Improved information strategies about, and simplified application process, for payments and services for grandparent and kinship carers.
  • The placement of Grandparent/kinship Advisers in all major Centrelink offices.
  • Specialised counselling services for grandparent and kinship carers.
  • Equal access to services, such as respite and crisis support, by informal carers.
  • Enhancement of the network of community-based peer support services available to all grandparent/kinship carers throughout Australia.
  • Improved information strategies about, and simplified application process for, payments and services for young people leaving out-of-home care.
  • An increase in the amount of TILA from the current $1500 to more accurately reflective of real costs associated with moving into independent living in today’s economy.
  • Strengthening and expansion of school-to-work transition programs, and support for young people to remain in education.
  • Expansion of programs which bring together all stakeholders in education and employment to improve the life prospects for disadvantaged young people.
  • That an individual’s role and responsibilities as a parent, along with any potential impact on children informs the application of participation requirements, sanctions or restricted access to income support payments.
  • That an individual’s role as a carer informs the application of any participation requirements, sanctions or restricted access to income support payments.
  • Recognition that the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is unlikely to have a significant impact on carers’ availability to enter the paid workforce.
  • Introduction of greater flexibility in the recognition of volunteering as fulfilment of participation requirements.
  • That income management not be imposed, but should be available to individuals and communities who request it, and be accompanied by adequate support services to enhance capability and build self-reliance.
  • Further support for employers to improve their understanding of barriers to workforce participation within their workplaces.
  • Availability of specialist support for job-seeking Forgotten Australians, and increased understanding of their history by employers.
  • Development of models that combine vocational rehabilitation and personal support to suit the needs of care leavers, both Forgotten Australians and young people currently transitioning from out-of-home care.

Ongoing support for a comprehensive well-linked, well-resourced network of civil society organisations, and strong support for volunteering in communities.

 

Download

Welfare Reform (August 2014)