Income Management Net Widened

ACOSS will tell a Federal Government consultation in Sydney tomorrow that some age, disability and carer pensioners who live in areas designated by the Minister would come under the income management scheme.

Under draft guidelines the net would be cast well beyond people on those payments who are victims of domestic violence or ‘humbugging’.

“The guidelines detail the rollout of the scheme and have widened the definition of a “vulnerable” person so it could potentially apply to anyone on income support payments who lives in designated area,” said Clare Martin, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service.

“Centrelink social workers could apply income management to people they identify as being under financial stress, experiencing homelessness, suffering domestic violence, under pressure to hand their money to others, or with mental health issues.

“Most people who depend on income support are under financial stress, including many pensioners, carers, unemployed people and sole parents. If you are a single unemployed person living on just $230 a week, or a single pensioner on $350 a week, it is highly likely are experiencing financial stress.

“We fear that people will not seek help from Centrelink with emergency relief, homelessness, or domestic violence services in case income management applies to their payments.

“Income management can assist people manage their budgets, but it should be a choice made by individuals or communities, not imposed by government in blanket fashion to anyone who is living in a disadvantaged area and either receives a particular payment or is deemed by a social worker to be ‘vulnerable’.

“Under the draft guidelines, parents seeking exemptions from income management would have to jump through so many hoops that many will simply give up.”

Parents would have to pass a detailed test of their budgeting skills and answer 46 intrusive financial questions – a checklist that is more complex than the average mortgage application.

They would also have to ‘prove’ to Centrelink that they are good parents, for example by sending their children to playgroups, daycare centres or kinder-gym. Many middle income families would fail these detailed and intrusive tests.

“We are calling on the Federal Government to halt this scheme. There is little evidence to show compulsory income management assists people overcome disadvantage. The $410 million over five years should go toward programs that help people build skills and move into work,” said Ms Martin.

ACOSS’ submission to the consultation, and a new analysis of the scheme are available here.