With the new government sworn in this week, the St Vincent de Paul National Council has issued a warning against returning to old and out-dated welfare policies.
Chief Executive Officer, Dr John Falzon said: “The government will do nothing to increase employment participation if it chooses to demonise people. There is no place in Australia for the kind of policy approach that equates to condemning people for not being able to walk up stairs while refusing to build a ramp.
“The Work for the Dole Scheme is an example of poor policy. This was roundly criticised by the OECD as being a short-term programme with no focus on skilling people or preparing them for sustainable employment. As for compulsory income management, this is a costly and wasteful programme that is inherently paternalistic rather than empowering. It is also projected to cost the government $1billion in administration over ten years. If expanded, as the Prime Minister has signalled, this cost will rise dramatically.
“The government also needs to ensure that people are not forced out of the frying pan and into the fire by following the US path of forcing people into low-paid, insecure work. It is enormously important, for example, that single mums are not forced into family-unfriendly workplaces.
“The new government has an excellent opportunity to address the underlying structural causes of unemployment. This means looking at ways to create economic activity in places where jobs are few and far between. It also means ensuring that people who are currently excluded from the labour market are provided with concrete pathways to employment, including training opportunities, especially within the workplace. People who are unemployed should never be forced to live in poverty. This is why Newstart still needs to be urgently increased by $50 a week.
National President, Mr Anthony Thornton, said: “Since the McClure report in 2000, successive governments have been warned that the current social support system is at risk of worsening, rather than redressing, unemployment and disadvantage. In turn, we have seen successive governments continue with out-dated policies, in the face of mounting evidence that demonstrates that they should be dropped.
“The Abbott Government has the opportunity to do away with these punitive and paternalistic measures and reform our social support system so that it creates real pathways to employment.
“Over the coming weeks The St Vincent de Paul Society will be seeking meetings with Mr Kevin Andrews (Minister for Social Services) and Senator Marise Payne (Minister for Human Services) to discuss welfare reform. In Anti-Poverty Week (13-19 Oct). The St Vincent de Paul Society will be releasing its ‘Two Australias Report’. The report provides a plan for a more cost effective approach to building economic participation through social investment.”