UnitingCare Australia is encouraged by this morning’s news regarding the yet to be released final report of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform. “Australia needs a simpler, fairer and more adequate welfare system. If news reports this morning are accurate, the McClure recommendations may offer a way forward to achieve that,” said Lin Hatfield Dodds, national director of UnitingCare Australia.
“We particularly welcome attention being given to the adequacy of payments people receive.”
“For many years, income support payments have been inadequate. This has made it extremely difficult for vulnerable Australians to maintain a decent standard of life,” said Lin Hatfield Dodds.
“Providing adequate payments is at the centre of an effective welfare system. People who rely on income support, need payments that are reflective of community living standards, allowing them to cover their basic needs and participate in the community. It is crucial that payments are adjusted over time to maintain adequacy. Adjusting payments through the use of an expert panel every four years and a six-monthly adjustment according to an index like the Consumer Price Index would be very welcome.”
“News reports today are also indicating that recommendations will be made about massive upfront investment of resources, to address the future costs of welfare dependency. Welfare reform should move in this direction. For the most vulnerable people with complex needs, for whom employment is a very distant horizon, additional and early investment is needed. We would welcome a shift in focus towards the long-term and to evidence-based interventions for people with complex and high needs,” said Lin.
“Other reported recommendations include changing the payment system, moving it from a complex mix of benefits and supplements to a simple system of five primary payments; jobs plans; and a system to make it clear to welfare recipients that they would be financially better off in work.”
“If the key issue of adequacy is addressed, and early investment is made, these other changes also seem positive. The headline recommendations seem to offer a strong and sensible pathway for welfare reform.”
“We look forward to reading the report, hearing the Government’s response, and working with government and others in the sector to adjust our welfare system so it better serves vulnerable people who rely on it.”
“We need to ensure our welfare system provides people with a genuinely secure safety net and the supports required to address the challenges they face. A strong and reliable welfare system that supports those who need it is a key part of a healthy society.”