Ms Helyar made the comments following Tony Abbott’s speech to the Sydney Institute last night, where he flagged a broader application of the flawed policy.
Following the ALP’s support for the Coalition’s plan, Ms Helyar appealed to both parties to move away from compulsory income management and invest instead in evidence-based services.
“The administration of the current compulsory income management will cost around $4,500 per person each year,” Ms Helyar said.
“This money could be much better spent of rolling out programs that work.
“We know that well targeted, long-term programs can, and do turn around the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage.
“We all agree that reform must produce a better life for long-term unemployed people. But extending the current punitive arrangements is not the way to go.
“People struggling to make ends meet and get a foot in employment door do not need the government to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on administering their Centrelink payments.
“This is not a good use of scarce funds or a meaningful response to entrenched disadvantage and exclusion.
“People who are unable to provide for the safety and wellbeing of their children need intensive support for as long as it takes to get back on the right track.
“There are effective services across Australia desperate for funding to meet the demand from families for this kind of support.
“Measures to address drug and alcohol abuse, mental health problems, financial difficulties, unemployment, poor housing and social isolation must be fully funded.
“Funding arrangements must also encourage employment support services to give the highest priority to the people who are least likely to get and keep a job.
“With political will and a long-term commitment to funding evidence-based programs, the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage experienced by many families can be broken and children living in struggling families can look forward to the same opportunities as the rest of the community,” Ms Helyar said.
The UnitingCare network provides services to over 2 million people each year in 1.300 sites in remote, regional and metropolitan communities. The network employs 35,000 people and is supported by the work of 24,000 volunteers.
Contact: Judith Tokley 0408 824 306 / 02 6249 6717
Authorised by Susan Helyar, UnitingCare Australia Level 1, 1-5 Wooley St, Dickson ACT 2602