Federal Budget boosts family relationships

Catholic Welfare Australia has welcomed last night's Federal Budget announcement of a range of family friendly initiatives, but said that new Job Network initiatives to assist the long-term unemployed may be overshadowed by the new regime to automatically suspend welfare payments.

In a statement released after Treasurer Peter Costello delivered the Budget Speech in Federal Parliament, Catholic Welfare said that it commends the Government for delivering a strategy that will help Australian families deal more effectively with relationship issues and relationship breakdown.

"Catholic Welfare Australia is particularly pleased to see the emphasis given to premarriage education and relationship support and early intervention programs. We strongly believe that education and prevention is much better than a cure," said Executive Director Frank Quinlan (pictured). "Australian families deserve all the help possible to get through rough patches they might face in life - preferably before they reach the point where separation or divorce is the only solution."

"We support a less adversarial Family Law System and the Family Relationships Centres proposal seems to go a long way towards meeting this aim whilst ensuring the children involved are protected. Children's welfare must be paramount," he said.

"No doubt these changes will profoundly alter the way family services are provided in this country. We welcome the Government's stated approach which is to build upon the strength of existing services. It is pleasing to note that care has been taken to ensure that the rollout of the Family Relationship Centres does not divert support from existing services that strengthen marriage and relationships," said Mr Quinlan.

But on the employment front, Mr Quinlan said that new initiatives in Job Network designed to assist the long-term unemployed may be overshadowed by the new regime to automatically suspend welfare payments.

"The whole Job Network will welcome wage subsidies and increased places for special needs programs such as Open Employment," he said. "These initiatives will provide more options for the very long term unemployed."

"We join other church providers in expressing our grave concern that the new 'three strikes and you're out' welfare payment suspension regime including immediate and automatic suspensions, administered by Job Network members, may leave the poorest in the community vulnerable to real risks," said Mr Quinlan. "'Three strikes and you're out' means exactly that - you are out of home, out of food, out of clothes and even further excluded from society."

"When you live on welfare you are poor, many families surviving on less than $250 a week. We were desperately hopeful that this Budget would bring about a better life for the many Australians who do not share in this country's record levels of employment and prosperity," said Mr Quinlan.

"What parents, people with disabilities or the older and long term unemployed need are real opportunities for work," he said. "Looking at the current Work for the Dole program, the Government's own data shows that only 14% of those who complete the program end up in full time jobs."

"Our vast experience in the Job Network proves conclusively that supportive programs, customised to individual needs and delivered with respect, are more successful than punitive approaches," Mr Quinlan said.

"This new regime means church agencies would be delivering housing assistance, food parcels and other support to people stripped of their only source of income. It is unacceptable for the Government to implement such a harsh regime without thorough investigation of the consequences and necessary safeguards," concluded Mr Quinlan.

Through its member organisations, Catholic Welfare Australia assists over one million people each year. It is the largest provider of family services in rural and regional Australia, administering family relationship services in excess of $70 million annually.

Family Relationships given major boost in Federal Budget (Catholic Welfare Australia 10/5/05)
Job Network initiative overshadowed by concern for the most vulnerable (Catholic Welfare Australia 10/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Federal Government Budget Website | Budget Speech
Catholic Welfare Australia

Catholic Welfare says mutual obligation a "two-way street" (CathNews 9/5/05)
Budget non-event for poor but Govt delivers on aged care (CathNews 12/5/04)

Cash for 87,800 childcare places (The Australian 11/5/05)
Pregnant pause as family-friendly policies aborted (The Australian 11/5/05)
Subsidies for hard case hires (The Australian 11/5/05)

11 May 2005