Church groups hypocritical over welfare-to-work, lobbyist says

A lobbyist has slammed Catholic Social Services and described the St Vincent de Paul Society as "hardline" for boycotting the Government's new welfare-to-work measures, saying it is "hypocritical" to appeal to a higher morality while also relying on government funding for much of their income.

In an opinion piece in today's Australian, Peter Saunders (pictured), Social Research Director at the conservative think tank Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), says that welfare groups are forgetting their share of mutual obligation.

"Welfare groups are reneging on their agreement to participate in this safety-net system," Dr Saunders writes.

"A Catholic Social Services spokesperson has claimed the system is immoral and hardline groups such as St Vincent de Paul have shunned it from the outset."

Dr Saunders is responding to criticisms by church groups over the new rules affecting people applying for disability and sole parent payments since 1 July.

People with disabilities deemed capable of working 15 hours a week and parents with school-age children get lower payments unless they find jobs. Those who refuse work considered suitable by Centrelink have their payments cut off for eight weeks.

Dr Saunders advised the Church agencies to ask themselves several questions "before mounting their high horses and galloping away."

"Should people be expected to work if they are capable of supporting themselves? Some welfare activists still cling to the ideal of unconditional welfare where somebody deemed to be in need could receive money with no strings attached," he said.

"But while this may be a laudable principle for a Christian charity to follow", governments have "a clear duty to working taxpayers to ensure their money is not squandered on people who choose to live off the efforts of others."

"Doesn't there come a point where repeated breaching of the rules must result in withdrawal of benefits, at least temporarily?" Dr Saunders asks.

The role of charities is to step in "when innocent third parties begin to suffer, especially children," he said.

He added that welfare organisations are "making pots of money" from operating government Job Network contracts.

"It is a bit hypocritical for these charities to be appealing to a higher morality when they have for so long been happy to rely on the Government's cash for so much of their income," he concluded.

Charities must support rules (The Australian, 28/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Centre for Independent Studies
Catholic Social Services Australia

Catholic agencies hit back at Govt over welfare-to-work (CathNews, 24/8/06)
Catholic Social Services challenges Labor on commitment to poor (CathNews, 22/8/06)
Triple whammy for low income households: CSSA (CathNews 3/8/06)
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)

28 Aug 2006