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Catholic Commission challenges Govt on welfare reform

The Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission yesterday issued Seven Principles for Welfare Reform, calling on the Government to cease penalising the poor.

Encouraging the Government to embrace these principles in next week's Federal Budget, National Director Toby O'Connor said: "The Commission urges the Government to heed the welfare sector's call to reform its concept of Mutual Obligation, which must be grounded in a concern for the human dignity of income support recipients."

The Seven Principles include calls for the adequate funding of Welfare Reform, an improved standard of living for recipients, and for job creation to be at the centre of the reform process.

Mr O'Connor said: "Economic reforms have failed to deliver anywhere near enough jobs for the 670,000 people currently unemployed.  The Government must urgently adopt a national job creation strategy as a central element of Welfare Reform.

"Individual job seekers face onerous and sanctions-based activity tests, while the contribution of the Prime Minister's Social Coalition partnership of Government and business remains passive and vague.

"In return for corporate welfare amounting to several billion each year, business must now demonstrate its commitment to the Government's Mutual Obligation policy by the creation of jobs."

The Commission said Welfare Reform must be adequately funded, citing $4.5 billion over two years as a minimum.  Given the impact on the Budget bottom line of questionable revenue decisions, such as abolishing fuel excise indexation, the Government cannot now claim fiscal stringency as it finally announces what it has said will be historically significant reforms.

Mr O'Connor said: "The Government must deliver to the most vulnerable in our community nothing less than adequately funded reforms that will guarantee them an acceptable standard of living.

"Our seven principles will be used by the Catholic Social Welfare Commission to judge the Government's Budget initiatives for Welfare Reform."

The Principles are available for download in Word format from the Commission's website