Monday, 31 May 2010 00:00

Vulnerable Australians miss out because of red tape

UnitingCare Australia’s National Director, Susan Helyar, said today that getting access to social security payments in times of crisis was proving too difficult for the people who needed them most.

Welcoming the release today of the Australia Institute’s report Missing out: Unclaimed government assistance and concession benefits, Ms Helyar said it’s time for the Government to put a broom through its complex social support payments systems to ensure the right people are getting enough support when they need it.

“The current system of social support payments is fraught with disincentives. It is stigmatising, complicated and confusing,” Ms Helyar said.

“It forces people into a dehumanising system of hoops and mazes that challenges the logic of most people, let alone those facing an acute mental health problem or unexpected caring responsibilities.

The report shows that 168,000 Australians are likely to be missing out on payments to which they are entitled across just four Centrelink payments – Parenting Payment, Carer Allowance, Disability Support Pension and Bereavement Allowance.

“Income support is intended to help people facing difficult circumstances to get back on their feet.

“The research shows that most people work hard to be independent and to make their own way.

“Successive governments have agreed the level of entitlement they will provide to support people and yet huge numbers of people cannot access these entitlements.

“The current social security budget has been underspent by $614 million. Centrelink is achieving savings on the back of some of Australia’s most vulnerable people.

“We support the call for an entitlements commission that will take decisions about the adequacy of support payments out of the political arena and base decisions on the kind of careful analysis that the Australia Institute and others have provided.

“The findings of the report reinforce the stories that UnitingCare agencies hear every day as they deliver services to vulnerable and disadvantaged people and communities,” Ms Helyar said.

UnitingCare Australia provides services to over 2 million Australians each year from 1,300 sites across metropolitan, regional and remote 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