Blanket Welfare Reforms Gamble with Disadvantaged Communities

The Australian Council of Social Service is deeply concerned the compulsory income management scheme, passed by the majority parties in the Senate last night, will alienate people on income support and do little to assist people overcome social issues.

“This poorly targeted, expensive scheme is a gamble with the daily lives of people on the lowest incomes, and a gamble with taxpayers funds,” said Clare Martin, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service.

“The scheme is broader than most people realise. It could cover all income support recipients, including age, disability and carer pensioners, who live in areas designated by the Minister.

“The policy puts finite resources into micro-managing people’s daily finances, rather than funding programs including employment assistance, drug and alcohol programs that achieve direct outcomes.

“Compulsory income management will do little to help people move off income support and into employment or training.

“The Government is willing to gamble $410 million over the next five years to manage 20,000 people in the Northern Territory. Per head, this is eight times the amount – just $500 – provided to an employment services provider to help someone find a job.

“The limited consultation on income management for the poorest Australians is in stark contrast to the attention given to the mining industry over their opposition to the mining tax.

“Along with many of our members and Indigenous organisations in the Northern Territory, ACOSS sees a useful role for income management where individuals or communities choose to use it. It then becomes a tool for them to help overcome entrenched social problems rather than a clumsy imposition from Canberra.

“This Bill only partially reinstates the Racial Discrimination Act, leaving parts of the Northern Territory Intervention still in breach of human rights, including compulsory leases of Aboriginal lands. ACOSS calls on Government to reinstate the Act in full, and as soon as possible.

“Income management will apply automatically to people on certain payments in regions nominated by the Minister, regardless of how well they manage their money and care for their children. It will start in the Northern Territory and extend progressively to disadvantaged communities across the country.

“It is disappointing that the major parties have approved such a radical and harmful change to our social security system with so little public consultation and debate. We commend the work of the Australian Greens which is the only party to have consistently opposed this legislation in the Parliament.”

Media Contact: Clare Cameron, ACOSS – 0419 626 155