Anglicans back Catholic boycott of "unjust" welfare-to-work program

Anglicare has joined Catholic Social Services in its refusal to take part in the Government's case management program for "breached" welfare recipients, leaving Centrelink to manage the household budgets of thousands of welfare recipients.

The Director of Anglicare Australia, Sue Leppert, told the Sydney Morning Herald that all but one of the organisation's 41 agencies had decided not to participate.

"They are clear that they will support people but they will not do the compliance regime because it is unjust," Ms Leppert said.

Anglicare's decision follows that of Catholic Social Services Australia not to run the eight-week financial case management service, which was set up to manage the finances of people whose payments are cut off because they do not comply with the new system.

The Uniting Church, St Vincent de Paul Society and the Brotherhood of St Laurence are also against the changes, while the Salvation Army has not yet registered to join in.

The Minister for Human Services, Joe Hockey, said Centrelink would run the program if necessary. "We're not asking people to do our dirty work We're asking them to help the most vulnerable people in the country, and they are making a political observation."

"It could only be described as too cute that Catholic Social Services are shoulder-to-shoulder with the National Welfare Rights Network and the Labor Party, and the program's only been in place a month and a half," Mr Hockey said, according to a report in the Australian.

"Catholic Social Services signed up to this knowing full well what it was about," Mr Hockey said. "They haven't had a single case, and a month and a half in, they walk away - and you need to ask what their motivation would be."

However, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) is urging the Federal Government to rethink its approach for getting people from welfare to work.

ACOSS President Lin Hatfield Dodds says many welfare organisations have ethical concerns about the Government's scheme.

"ACOSS doesn't tell its members which contracts to tender for and which not to, we don't provide advice in any way," she said.

"But we do know that organisations like Catholic Social Services and like a lot of our other large provider networks who are members have been really struggling with whether or not to throw their hats in the ring for this particular tender."

Church-state war over welfare (Sydney Morning Herald, 19/8/06)
Church ignoring poor: Hockey (Australian, 19/8/06)
ACOSS urges Govt to rethink welfare scheme (ABC News, 19/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Social Services Australia
Anglicare Australia
St Vincent de Paul Society Australia

Low unemployment should pave way for training places: CSSA (CathNews, 14/7/06)
New welfare-to-work rules spell disaster: Catholic Social Services (CathNews, 3/7/06)
Catholic Social Services baulks at cooperation with harsh policy (CathNews, 7/6/06)
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)

21 Aug 2006