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Howard Government now outsourcing social security: joint media release.



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JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

Senator Chris Evans Shadow Minister for Social Security

Senator Penny Wong Shadow Minister for Employment and Workforce Participation

17 May 2005

HOWARD GOVERNMENT NOW OUTSOURCING SOCIAL SECURITY

Labor is seriously concerned by the Howard Government's moves to outsource responsibility for deciding if people with disabilities are entitled to welfare payments to the private sector.

Labor's Social Security Spokesperson, Senator Chris Evans, said: 'The Howard Government is washing its hands of core social security functions.

'It shows that they don't care about people with disabilities, and would rather leave them to the Job Network and other private agencies to handle.

'We now have a situation where the private sector will not only be responsible for finding jobs for people with disabilities, but also for determining their entitlement to social security benefits.'

Labor's Employment Spokesperson, Senator Penny Wong, said: 'Every day a new flaw in the so-called 'welfare to work' scheme emerges.

'The Howard Government won't even take responsibility for assessing the capacity of people with a disability to work - it is the Government that has been exposed as the real shirkers.

'There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Job Network agencies are better placed to assess the capacity of a person with a disability to work.'

This follows the decision after the last election to transfer Centrelink and the other service delivery agencies to the Finance portfolio.

The Department of Family and Community Services, which used to have complete responsibility for social security payments, was also sidelined with 60% of its staff shunted to other agencies.

'This shows that the Howard Government now wants decisions about payments to be made on the basis of cost rather than need', Senator Evans said.

Senator Wong concluded: 'The Howard Government has also failed to indicate how it will prevent conflicts of interest arising, such as whether a private agency could stand to gain business from making the assessment that a disabled person has a capacity to work.'

For further information: John McNamara 0418 308 599 (Senator Evans) John Olenich 0408 841 850 (Senator Wong)