Outlining an overhaul of the Federal social services system recommended by Patrick McClure at a projected cost of 150 million, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison has stated “the budget needs repair.”
In a speech given on Wednesday at the National Press Club, the minister proposed a simplification of the current welfare system. These include benefits for young people below the age of 22 being paid to their parents. These payments would be made on a means-tested basis, with conditions including regular immunisations and school attendance checks.
The government also aims to make savings by reducing the number of people on disability support, through measures including the introduction of a tiered system of payments.
UnitingCare Australia’s National Director Ms Lin Hatfield Dodds has responded to the government’s proposed efficiency measures.
“UnitingCare Australia shares the Government’s desire to see more people assisted into the workforce, but we also caution that a realistic understanding of the challenges facing the most vulnerable Australians is required,” Hatfield Dodds said.
“But we need to pay serious attention to how we support and enable change for those who are the most vulnerable. There are many people who are dependent on welfare for longer periods of time who cannot move to independence without significant supports.”
Ms Hatfield Dodds also recommended following the example of New Zealand’s approach to welfare as a long-term process of support for the unemployed and physically disabled. While UnitingCare supports the government in attempting to introduce greater efficiency, it also encourages widening the scope of these reforms to include areas beyond youth and childcare support, such as the aged pension.
“We need to understand what life is like for the most disadvantaged Australians and we need to give them more support, not less. One key aspect of that support is ensuring that people’s payments are adequate to provide their basic needs and allow them to participate in the community,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said.
“UnitingCare Australia supports older Australians having a better quality of life in retirement through more effective use of their capital and superannuation. We were pleased to see Minister Morrison placing this issue on the agenda in his speech.”
The full statement from UnitingCare is available here.