Catholic Welfare says policy tweaks amount to little

A small number of single parents will be temporarily exempted from the Federal Government's welfare changes in an attempt to address concerns about the severity of the reforms, but changes the Government has agreed to are "only the first steps in a long journey", according to Catholic Welfare Australia Executive Director Frank Quinlan.

CLICK HEREThe Sydney Morning Herald reports that, despite lobbying by church and welfare groups including Catholic Welfare Australia, the main aspects of the policy remain, which means hundreds of thousands of people will have to live on lower benefits unless they find jobs.

No one will have their payments cancelled without being warned by Centrelink, the Minister for Workforce Participation, Kevin Andrews, said yesterday. People with children may get financial assistance to ensure their offspring are not affected.

The main aspects of the changes remain, including stricter work requirements for single parents and people with disabilities, and stopping payments for two months if people do not meet those requirements.

To be exempted parents will have to show there is a lack of suitable child care, children suffer behavioural problems requiring support during school hours, or a lack of suitable work. People leaving abusive relationships will also be temporarily excused.

Foster carers, home schoolers, parents with four or more children, or parents who care for a child with a serious illness or disability are those most likely to be excused.

The changes to the way penalties are imposed were made to ensure people who suffer episodic mental or physical illnesses did not lose their welfare payments if they were unable to meet work requirements because of their condition.

The Church and welfare groups welcomed the softening of the changes but said they did not go far enough. The executive director of Catholic Welfare Australia, Frank Quinlan, said he wanted more changes to the policy.

"The fundamentals of a sound welfare-to-work package are adequate income support, education and training and job creation," he said. "[Yesterday's] announcements only relate to the first of these. Investment in education and job creation remains inadequate."

Welfare to work rules tweaked (Sydney Morning Herald 22/9/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Welfare to Work announcements the first steps in a long journey (Catholic Welfare Australia 21/9/05)

Churches warn Govt about job welfare changes (CathNews 16/9/05)
Church pressure wins Govt change of heart on unemployed (CathNews 5/9/05)
Federal Budget boosts family relationships (CathNews 11/5/05)
Catholic Welfare stands up for long-term unemployed (CathNews 2/5/05)

Welfare-to-work program rules eased (ABC News 21/9/05)

22 Sep 2005