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A mixed welfare budget creates winners and losers

10:00am11th May 2011
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``The Government has opened the door to activity testing for Disability Support Pensioners and has fast tracked the introduction of new rules that will effectively create a period of limbo by precluding certain people from claiming the disability support pension.
``New beneficial rules for pensioners to test their ability to work more than 15 hours per week are questionable because, under existing laws, the Government cannot guarantee that the person will not ultimately put their pension at risk.
``There is a further sting in the tail for unemployed people in this Budget. Under the guise of ``simplification'' some daily compliance penalties will increase from $34 to $47 per day. From 1 July 2011 job seekers will be given as little as one day's notice that they are going to have their payments cut if legislation currently before a Senate Committee is passed by the Parliament.
``The pre-budget leaks on special participation requirements for teen parents might be well meaning but is misguided, stigmatising and potentially damaging. It is likely to lead to separation of parent and child at the very time most babies experience high levels of separation anxiety.
``We are sceptical of the doubling of Work of the Dole and other requirements for very long term unemployed people. It is a recycled and wasteful program that has been found to be less effective in getting long-term unemployed people into work when compared to programs of real work experience and wage subsidies.
``Welfare Rights notes that Centrelink has to meet the higher efficiency 1.5 per cent dividend for the next two years and that Budget papers indicate that many of the proposed changes to Centrelink's administration and service delivery are to be funded within existing resources.
``Centrelink plays a vital role in helping around 7 million families and individuals get on with their lives. Love it or hate it, Centrelink needs to be adequately resourced to do its job.''
Welfare Rights will be seeking assurances from the Minister for Human Services about ongoing staffing levels and the quality and consistency of Centrelink's advice and decision making.
For comment:
Maree O'Halloran, President, National Welfare Rights Network: 0417 672 104
or Gerard Thomas, Policy and Media Officer: 0425 296 882.

A mixed welfare budget creates winners and losers
The National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN) today welcomed some good budget initiatives, but has expressed concern and despair over the Government's continued misguided policies that demonise and unfairly target some groups, such as long term unemployed and some single parents.
``This budget provides a welcome and major investment in programs that tackle disadvantage, improve skills and training, in addition to wage subsidies for very long term unemployed people, mature age unemployed people and people with disabilities,'' said Maree O'Halloran, NWRN President.
``The historic levels of spending on mental health will open new doors and opportunities for people who have long been ignored. With one in three unemployed people experiencing a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness this practical support could make a real difference to their chances of engaging in the community or finding work. To find sustainable employment this group of vulnerable job seekers need structured support, not a regime of penalties or meaningless activities.
``The Government has significantly improved the financial incentives for young people on Youth Allowance and single parents on Newstart Allowance who are working part-time. Unfortunately, the Government remains wilfully blind when it comes to the adequacy of income support for people on Allowances. We call on the Government to increase all unemployment and student payments by $50 per week and to apply the same beneficial Youth Allowance taper rates to all Newstart recipients.
``As a result of this budget some single parents will be transferred to a lower rate of Newstart Allowance and will be $56 per week worse off. Some 21 year olds will face a partial or even complete loss of payment until they reach age 22. Single parent families that experience both payment reductions will be placed under extreme financial pressure.
``One of the worst decisions in this budget is the extension of income management to five additional locations, costing $117.5 million over five years. This expensive and demeaning scheme will target up to 1000 people per site. The Government has not even bothered to wait for the results of the promised evaluation Compulsory Income Management before extending it beyond the Northern Territory.
``Pensioners and others receiving social security payments in the targeted suburbs should be concerned that from July 2012 the Government could be telling them how to spend their meagre pensions and allowances.

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www.welfarerights.org.au
The NWRN is a network of
services throughout
Australia that provide free
and independent
information, advice and
representation to individuals
about Social Security law
and its administration
through Centrelink.
For member details, services
and information visit:
www.welfarerights.org.au