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Catholic Commission says Budget welfare spend masks crackdowns

The Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission is concerned that the spending on Welfare Reform in Tuesday night's Federal Budget is grossly inadequate.

It says toughened activity tests and compliance crackdowns remain the cornerstone of the Coalition's designs.

Mr Toby O'Connor, the National Director, offered support for some of the Coalition's welfare initiatives: "The Working Credit initiative, $800 training credits for Work-for- the-Dole participants and older job seekers, increased child care places, improved resources for Centrelink and the Job Network are very welcomed. The seamless integration of Job Network with other support programs is visionary and holds great potential.

But he said that what had been "trumpeted" in the leadup to the Budget as "a very big spend" has in fact turned out to be a modest net outlay of only $770 million over four years.

"With the bulk of the Government's funding delayed until after the next Federal Election, it is now apparent that compliance measures and sanctions will become the immediate and hard edge to reform plans," he said.

Commenting on Mutual Obligation initiatives in the Budget, Mr O'Connor said: "Harsh activity requirements and compliance monitoring remain the signature tune of this Government's approach to welfare. Activity tests have been extended to sole parents and older workers. Work-for-the-Dole has again been expanded. There are additional compliance measures aimed at weeding out 'dole cheats'. These will provide little in the way of meaningful options for recipients. Most alarming is the conspicuous absence of any job creation strategy that would provide real social and economic opportunities.

"Mr Costello laid great claims to a budget for the future. What we see here is a Welfare Reform package that only partially delivers for those who have carried the burden of Budgets past."