Catholic Social Services welcomes falling unemployment

Catholic Social Services has congratulated the Government on the fall in the numbers of people on Newstart and Youth Allowance but says greater investment in skills and training is needed to sustain employment in the long term.

Commenting on the release of the Government's Labour Market and Related Payments Report, Executive Director Frank Quinlan said that unemployment figures fell in a buoyant labour market, providing a unique opportunity for the Government to fund additional help for people who have significant barriers to employment.

"The Government can now invest in skills, training and support to help these people overcome the barriers and be more competitive in the labour market," Mr Quinlan said.

"A greater investment in skills will ensure people develop the necessary skills to sustain their employment over the long term. It will also go a long way to meeting the needs of employers who are finding it hard to fill jobs because of a skilled labour shortage," he said.

Mr Quinlan says more places are needed for the unemployed through existing programs like the Personal Support Program, Job Placement Employment and Training and Disability Open Employment Service.

"While there has been a recent welcome investment into these programs, more places are urgently required ... Waiting lists for these programs is over 12 months in some areas of Australia," said Mr Quinlan.

"With a healthy budget surplus, Australia is in a position now to make the social investment needed to ensure greater long term economic security for all of us."

Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that Mr Quinlan has also welcomed the Government's plans to soften proposed welfare changes for sole parents.

People receiving sole parent payments will not be forced to take low-paid jobs unless their pay packets leave them at least $50 a fortnight better off.

The Government faced criticism from welfare groups, churches, the Opposition and some of its own members over the changes, which affect people applying for disability and sole parent payments from 1 July.

Mr Quinlan said the turnaround would "provide some comfort to single parents who may have been concerned about their work obligations".

"It recognises the problem we have at that end of the labour market where those on low incomes and social security benefits face very severe structural barriers to employment," he said.

"If people have to work three or four weeks before they are bringing home wages then that's a disincentive to them looking for work and it's a barrier to the Government's aim of greater productivity."

The Government had been accused by social services and the Opposition of not understanding the full effects of the policy.

It was stung by work done by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling that found the changes would mean people moved from disability payments into work would take home just $2.27 an hour.

Single parents would receive $3.88 an hour, the centre found.

Falling unemployment provides opportunity for investment (Catholic Social Services Australia 25/5/06)
Softer line on pay for single parents (Sydney Morning Herald 26/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Social Services Australia

Australians' wellbeing improving: ABS (ABC 24/5/06)

26 May 2006