Vinnies spokesman says welfare to work threatens vulnerable

St Vincent de Paul spokesman John Falzon has said that that the entire welfare to work legislation takes away dignity from disability pensioners and single mothers in the workforce and that new workplace laws will exacerbate the problem.

From July, disability pensioners and single mothers who fail to comply with welfare rules could lose their benefits for up to eight weeks. Those considered "extremely vulnerable" will be referred to charities for payments up to $650.

Speaking to Channel 10's Meet The Press on Sunday, Mr Falzon, whose charity will not participate in the Government's new scheme, said the welfare to work regime strips away human dignity and "does not offer hope to the people who really need the opportunities to be able to engage in the workforce and in society."

He said it is "immoral" to subject vulnerable people to threats of income suspension, particularly where there are children involved.

"To take away 100 per cent of their income for up to two months is not a way to enable people to engage productively or meaningfully in the labour market," he said.

Mr Falzon warns that with the Government's new workplace laws which came into effect last month, Australia could see the rise of a US-style "working poor" where people living in poverty turn to charities, their extended family and illicit work to survive.

Citing the 2004 Senate report on poverty A hand up not a hand out, he said: "Already we are seeing a phenomenon that is new to Australia's history - and that is the growth of the working poor, over one million."

"We've had both protections removed - income security, social security system is fast becoming a social insecurity system."

"If we follow the United States' path," he said, "what is definitely going to be on the cards is people moving out of the frying pan and into the fire."

"This is not the sort of vision we want for Australia," he said. "We want a fair and equitable vision where there's investment not only in adequate income security but a labour market where people are given the protections they deserve."

Interview with St Vincent de Paul Spokesman Dr John Falzon (Channel 10 Meet The Press 16/4/06 - Word document)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St Vincent de Paul Society

Vinnies rejects welfare reforms (CathNews 22/11/05)

Not Happy Larry (St Vincent de Paul Society 13/4/06)
Christopher Pearson: Charity into the breach (The Australian 8/4/06)

18 Apr 2006