Welfare reform and TTL: on principles and people

Changes to the Federal Government welfare system announced yesterday by the Minister for Social Services, the Hon. Christian Porter MP, signalled potentially far-reaching changes for the nation.

Many will welcome the high-level aims, particularly about assisting people to access the employment market.

There was also the welcome acknowledgement by Government that it does not have all the answers, and that it will rely on the non-government sector, academia, business and others to co-design the measures under the Try, Test, Learn (TTL) initiative.

Such an ambitious scheme needs to proceed with great care and deliberation if it is to be both humane and cost-effective.

To me, four of the more important principles to bear in mind in designing and implementing new arrangements should be:

  1. Equity and fairness. Government clearly should not disadvantage people in genuine need of temporary and ongoing support.
  2. Flexibility. New provisions should ensure that targets are sensible and reasonable and allow for unforeseen changes in factors such as fluctuating housing, health and employment conditions.
  3. Sustainability. New programs should not commit the fallacy of seeking and measuring short-term gains and depart too early, leaving people with little or no ongoing support.
  4. Attending to underlying causes. Priority attention should be given to addressing structural barriers such as poverty that entrenches disadvantage. Recipients of the TTL should receive tailored support that both comprehends and seeks to address their key needs as well as those of communities, families and children who will be affected by new arrangements.

Families Australia looks forward to working with Government to further develop this initiative.

Dr Brian Babington

21 September 2016