Welfare remix seeks big cuts
Children must be vaccinated for their parents to receive welfare benefits, under reforms proposed for Australia’s $150 billion welfare system.
The immunisation requirement is just one suggestion of a big welfare review handed to the Federal Government this week.
The Coalition-commissioned review was undertaken by former Mission Australia CEO Patrick McClure, chief executive of the National Employment Services Association Sally Sinclair and indigenous employment advocate Wesley Aird.
Social Security Minister Scott Morrison and the report itself claim that most people will be “better off” under the proposed changes.
However, the fact that the whole thing is being promoted as an effort to cut and “streamline” services leads some to wonder how it will avoid stripping payments from those in need.
The review recommends that the current system comprising 20 different payment types and 55 supplements should be simplified to five payments and four supplements - a tiered working age payment, a supported living pension, a child and youth payment, a carer payment and an age pension.
The reduced list of payment types will also have their conditions tightened.
The ‘child and youth payment’ would be means-tested for parents of dependent children under 22.
While the payment would increase as the child aged, it would be conditional on the child being immunised and being in school or training if they had the capacity.
The tiered working age payment would be split into three sections – one for people with a disability who could work between eight and 14 hours per week; those with a disability and a capacity to work between 15 and 29 hours per week or those with dependent children or young people under 22; and a third for people with full capacity to work or study full-time.
Mr McClure said more people would be encouraged to look for work if the “fear” of having payments cut as a result of entering the workforce was removed from the system.
So, McClure says, a “passport to work” scheme would be introduced that would show people how much extra they could earn by working. They would also be allowed to return to their previous support payment if the job ended or hours were reduced.
In addition, the report called for the introduction of income banking – a system that would allow people to store credits when their income was low and use them to offset earnings later, so that they could earn extra when they do start work.
A similar system is already in place for Newstart recipients.
The panel said the carer payment should remain unchanged and was not able to assess the aged pension.
Other recommendations include:
- Cutting income support for young people until they age 22, paying it to their parents instead
- A new IT system that is integrated with Australian Taxation Office data
- Staged phasing-in of changes to cut the number of welfare payments
- A jobs plan and greater supports for people with disability and mental health conditions
- Integrated employment and mental health services
- Creating a smoother path for young people go from school to work, through better relationships with employers, communities and businesses
- Better enabling philanthropic efforts
- Some use of income management, restricting payments and pushing people to spend their money in particular ways
Social Services Minister Scott Morrison is expected to elaborate on the Government’s reaction to the planned welfare reforms during a National Press Club address on Wednesday.