Tuesday, 16 March 2010 00:00

Major parties ignore evidence in decision to extend compulsory income management

UnitingCare Australia reacted with disappointment to the announcement today that the Opposition will vote with the Government to pass legislation that will enable extension of compulsory income management.

“This decision was made despite the evidence from Australian research considered by the recent Senate Inquiry that demonstrates widespread and untargeted compulsory income management of social security payments is more expensive than targeted services that stop cycles of violence and deprivation,” said Susan Helyar, National Director of UnitingCare Australia.

“Untargeted compulsory income management will cost around $4,400 per person per year to implement and there is insufficient evidence to support its widespread adoption.”

“UnitingCare services in every state and territory work with people and communities providing support and services that address substance abuse, violence, child abuse and neglect. We have learned, from careful analysis and evaluation of our work, what improves parenting outcomes and ensures families can manage their money in ways that meet their children’s nutritional, health, housing and education needs and keep them safe. UnitingCare Children, Young People and Families in NSW is currently delivering this sort of service for around $3,800 per child per year.”

Jane Woodruff, Chair of the UnitingCare Australia Children, Young People and Families Network, said, “What works is to offer services that provide young people and families with intensive support for a long enough time to address drug and alcohol abuse, mental health problems, financial difficulties, unemployment, poor housing and social isolation.”

“Compulsory income management in a small number of extreme cases may be a suitable short term emergency measure. But it doesn’t get families working well or move people out of welfare dependency. The UnitingCare network of services has achieved that by supporting people to address the causes of violence and deprivation, build budgeting skills, help establish positive relationships with their children and gain the training and opportunities they need to get off income support and into employment,” Ms Woodruff said.

Ms Helyar continued, “For the majority of young people and families that will be caught by the changes this legislation will allow, compulsory income management is an expensive and unnecessary intrusion into their household budgeting decisions.”

“Governments need to spend the scarce funds available to support disadvantaged and vulnerable Australians on services that deliver real and sustained improvements in their lives and their communities. UnitingCare Australia restates its offer to work with the Australian Government, other social service providers and all people who want to make a difference to extend the reach of these sorts of services,” Ms Helyar concluded.

Contacts: Susan Helyar 0448 791 987
Karen Bevan 0400 379 656
UnitingCare Australia is the national agency for UnitingCare, a network of service providers in over 1300 communities across Australia dedicated to providing assistance to individuals, families and communities. The UnitingCare network is one of the largest providers of community services in Australia.