Agencies sceptical on welfare voucher plans

Using income security as a bargaining chip will not help solve poverty in Australia, Vinnies spokesperson John Falzon said yesterday, as welfare groups rejected replacing welfare payments with food and clothing vouchers.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul and Catholic Social Services Australia were among numerous welfare groups that have rejected federal government plans, reported by News Limited, to cut back welfare payments to drug addicted and alcoholic parents, by delivering 30 per cent in food and clothing vouchers.

"You don't help children by degrading their parents. You don't help children by making their parents feel like third class citizens. You don't help children by using their income security as a barging chip," St Vincent de Paul National Council CEO John Falzon told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"You help families by investing in them, by valuing them, by giving them a hand up, not by ad hoc American style policies that demonise and degrade them."

Catholic Social Services director, Frank Quinlan, also weighed in saying that "families in crisis need access to voluntary case-managed support services, not one-off, punitive measures like compulsory food and clothing vouchers".

"Children at risk must be the focus of the Government's efforts, and addressing the problem demands a coordinated, long term approach that involves service providers and all levels of government," Mr Quinlan said.

A spokeswoman for Families Minister Mal Brough had earlier failed to rule out plans for a voucher program, the Herald said.

She said Mr Brough has been open on his investigation into possible changes to welfare payments and there is nothing new in Wednesday's reports.

Meanwhile, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) says if the government does go ahead with a voucher program it would be bad news for welfare recipients.

"While it is imperative that children be protected from harm, solutions to drug and alcohol abuse cannot be addressed by welfare payments," ACOSS president Lin Hatfield Dodds said in a statement.

"Instead we need to provide services like counselling, rehabilitation and training so that people have the skills and support they need to get their lives back on track."


Vouchers 'don't help' struggling parents (Sydney Morning Herald, 16/11/06)

Families in crisis need support not heavy hand (Catholic Social Services, Media Release, 15/11/06)

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

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)

16 Nov 2006