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Welfare package changes 'not enough'


Catholic Welfare Australia and other church groups are pushing for further changes to the Federal Government's welfare-to-work package that was unveiled yesterday.

CLICK HEREThe Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Federal Government has won over dissenting backbenchers about the merits of its controversial welfare overhaul, but failed to convince the welfare sector.

Following months of negotiations with backbenchers concerned the original package was too harsh, a meeting of Liberal and Nationals MPs yesterday gave Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews the go-ahead to introduce new welfare legislation into parliament today.

The central premise of the overhaul, moving disabled people and sole parents onto a lower welfare payment and making them look for at least 15 hours of work a week, remains.

But single parents will be able to apply for an exemption to the job search requirement if they cannot get suitable childcare or if the cost of that care is too high.

Catholic Welfare Australia, which helps more than 25,000 job seekers each year through its agencies in the Job Network, is warning that welfare "breaches" leading to the suspension of payments for up to eight weeks could increase.

"Today's announcements are welcome changes to the original proposals, as they show that the Government is listening, but they fail to address the major concerns we hold about the package - the lack of incentive for people to move from welfare to work, and unduly harsh penalties for those who get into trouble," said Catholic Welfare Australia executive director Frank Quinlan.

He said the package could also give people false hope about their ability to find a job.

The government needed to do more to help employers take on disabled people, Mr Quinlan said.

Labor's workforce participation spokeswoman Penny Wong said Job Network providers may not be prepared for an influx of single parents and disabled people in July next year when the changes are due to take effect.

"The cold heart of these changes remain - a cut to the household budgets of vulnerable Australian families," Senator Wong said.

SOURCE
Welfare overhaul given the go-ahead (Sydney Morning Herald/Australian Associated Press 8/11/05)
Less incentive in the new welfare to work package (Catholic Welfare Australia 8/11/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Welfare Australia | Less incentive in the new welfare to work package (Catholic Welfare Australia 8/11/05)
Providing Parents With The Support And Assistance They Need To Work (Media Release, Employment & Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews 8/11/05)
Parents With Exemptions To Receive Special Income Supplement (Media Release, Employment & Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews 8/11/05)
Suitable Jobs Test For Parents (Media Release, Employment & Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews 8/11/05)
Welfare To Work Doorstop (Media Release, Employment & Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews 8/11/05)

MORE STORIES
Liberal MP still unhappy with welfare-work plan (Sydney Morning Herald 9/11/05)
Welfare reforms softened (The Advertiser 9/11/05)
Welfare package changes 'not enough' (ABC News 8/11/05)


9 Nov 2005