CSSA calls welfare payments plan offensive

Catholic Social Services Australia has said that Families and Community Services Minister Mal Brough's call for welfare payments to some parents to be controlled in order to provide for their children is offensive and shortsighted.

Executive Director of Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA), Frank Quinlan, said this represents a dangerous trend toward blaming low-income earners and people on welfare payments for their own circumstances and likened the plan to a system of coupons.

In a speech at the Hunter Valley on Saturday, Minister Mal Brough foreshadowed a new proposal to limit the discretionary spending of welfare recipients who waste their payments on drugs, alcohol and gambling, to protect their children. He suggested an extension of a voluntary program used by indigenous communities on Cape York, where money was debited directly to pay for housing, meals at school or electricity.

"I believe that it is reasonable for an amount in the order of 30 per cent of the welfare payments to be directed in this way for welfare recipients who are identified as failing their children," he said.

While acknowledging that there are children at risk because of the behaviours of some parents on welfare, Mr Quinlan said that the Minister's plan "offers no real help or long-term solutions" for people on welfare.

"People need hope - for themselves and their families. Not a shortsighted one-size-fits-all scheme that strips them of any remaining dignity in the face of poverty and hardship," Mr Quinlan said.

"The Minister is advocating the modern day equivalent of coupons where some - not all - people on benefits will be singled out in supermarket queues and the like."

Mr Quinlan called for comprehensive reform of the welfare and taxation system as a more sustainable solution to poverty.

"Low income earners face very real poverty traps. Single parents and people with a disability face effective marginal tax rates of up to 80 per cent as they move from welfare payments to work. In many cases they have to earn five dollars in order to take home just one dollar," he said.

"Removing anomalies like this would go a long way to providing real help for families facing hard times."

Families minister off the mark on child poverty (Cathoilc Social Services Australia 30/4/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Social Innovations Dialogue (Hon Mal Brough MP Speec 29/4/06)
Catholic Social Services Australia

Smartcard may deliver welfare crackdown (Seven News/Australian Associated Press 1/5/06)
Children must be cherished, not be merely tolerated, Pope Benedict urges parents, communities (Catholic News Agency 28/4/06)
Plan to divert wayward parents' benefits (Sydney Morning Herald 1/5/06)

1 May 2006