Catholic Welfare challenges minister to implement report
Catholic Welfare Australia's National Director Toby O'Connor has urged Family and Community Services Minister Amanda Vanstone to adopt report recommendations designed to minimise the risk of penalties for vulnerable job seekers.
Mr O'Connor was referring to recommendations contained in the Report of the Independent Review of Breaches and Penalties in the Social Security System, released yesterday.
He said: "This is a balanced report which recognises the good work of Centrelink and other providers in assisting job seekers. At the same time it highlights some serious failings in the operation of the Social Security system."
Failing listed by the report include: the excessively harsh nature of penalties, the inflexibility of the system in taking personal circumstances into account, and the counterproductive impact of penalties on client's job search capacity.
Mr O'Connor said: "Despite initiatives such as a 'third breach alert' and the proposed 'temporary payment suspension' in reducing breach numbers, the overall figures reveal breaching has sky-rocketed over recent years. The total annual number of breaches imposed has increased from 113,000 in 1996 to 386,000 in 2001. That is a 341% increase under the Howard Government."
"Behind the figures lie the experience of exceptional hardship for already vulnerable citizens. The severity of penalties is excessive and should be reduced," he said. "Contrary to claims that the current breach regime reflects 'community expectations', the fact remains that the regime is simply unjust — particularly for those identified in this report as 'especially vulnerable job seekers'."
Supporting the broad thrust of the Report, Mr O'Connor emphasised, "As a network of agencies engaged in the Job Network and providing emergency relief to those whose payments are cancelled, Catholic Welfare Australia is particularly supportive of the Report's recommendations to minimise the risk of penalties for vulnerable job seekers."
Independent Review of Breaches and Penalties in the Social Security System
Catholic Welfare Australia Submission to the Independent Review of Breaches and Penalties in the Social Security System (Word document)
Department of Family and Community Services
Catholic Welfare Australia
12 Mar 2002