Catholic Social Services baulks at cooperation with harsh policy

Catholic Social Services Executive Director Frank Quinlan has said that agencies in his network do not want to become "agents of harsh Government policy" by accepting contracts to manage the finances of people who have welfare axed for eight weeks.

This follows a statement by the Federal Human Services Minister Joe Hockey accusing non-participating charities in the Government's new welfare regime of putting political point-scoring ahead of helping the poor.

The Age reports that a range of agencies including Catholic Social Services returned fire, saying they would protect the dignity and morale of people left without income in the harsh new regime by supporting them voluntarily - rather than being co-opted as government agents.

Only 23 agencies have registered for the scheme, in which charities will be paid $650 to manage people whose payments have been cut off and recommend which of their "essential expenses" should be paid by Centrelink.

Many large national charities have either ruled out joining the new system or are in the midst of heated internal debates over doing so. Mr Hockey said he is "very disappointed in the attitude of some of these charities."

Brotherhood of St Laurence Executive Director Tony Nicholson said the new rules would cut off people's meagre incomes and then "force them into the demeaning experience of having to justify their expenses to a case manager".

Joining such a compulsory scheme would risk ruining productive relationships with clients and expose frontline workers to anger and aggression, he contended. "We are not in the business of visiting injustice upon the poor," he said.

Around 18,000 welfare recipients are tipped to face an eight-week suspension for breaching the rules each year, according to Government modelling. Only 4000 of them - mostly parents and the mentally ill - are tipped to qualify for financial case-management by charities. The rest will have to fend for themselves.

Pictured: Joe Hockey

Charities slammed by minister (The Age 7/6/06)

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

Catholic Social Services welcomes falling unemployment (CathNews 26/5/06)
Vinnies says "no" to Govt money (CathNews 6/4/06)
Church groups pessimistic about welfare overhaul (CathNews 21/11/05)

7 Jun 2006