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Social Services Legislation Amendment (Queensland Commission Income Management Regime) Bill 2017

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2016-2017

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCIAL SERVICES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT

(QUEENSLAND COMMISSION INCOME MANAGEMENT REGIME) BILL 2017

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 (Circulated by the authority of the

Minister for Social Services, the Hon Christian Porter MP)



SOCIAL SERVICES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT

(QUEENSLAND COMMISSION INCOME MANAGEMENT REGIME) BILL 2017

 

 

OUTLINE

 

The Bill amends the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 to enable a two year continuation of the Income Management element of Cape York Welfare Reform. The continuation of Income Management until 30 June 2019 is a key element of the reforms and will continue to assist in stabilising people’s circumstances and fostering behavioural change, particularly in the areas of school attendance, parental responsibility and increasing individual responsibility.

 

 

Financial impact statement

 

 

MEASURE

FINANCIAL IMPACT OVER THE FORWARD ESTIMATES

Extension of Income Management in all locations to 30 June 2019

$145.5 million

 

 

STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

 

The statement of compatibility with human rights appears at the end of this explanatory memorandum.

 

 

 



SOCIAL SERVICES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT

(QUEENSLAND COMMISSION INCOME MANAGEMENT REGIME) BILL 2017

 

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

Abbreviations used in this explanatory memorandum

 

  • Social Security Administration Act means the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999

 

Clause 1 sets out how the new Act is to be cited - that is, as the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Queensland Commission Income Management Regime) Act 2017 .

 

Clause 2 provides a table setting out the commencement date of the various sections in, and Schedule to, the new Act.

 

Clause 3 provides that each Act that is specified in a Schedule is amended or repealed as set out in that Schedule.

 

 



Schedule 1 - Amendments

 

 

Summary

 

The Bill amends the Social Security Administration Act to enable a two year continuation of the Income Management element of Cape York Welfare Reform in the communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale, and Mossman Gorge. Although not formally part of the Cape York Welfare Reform partnership, this Bill also applies to the community of Doomadgee.

 

The continuation of Income Management until 30 June 2019 is a key element of the reforms and will continue to assist in stabilising people’s circumstances and fostering behavioural change, particularly in the areas of school attendance, parental responsibility and increasing individual responsibility.

 

Background

 

Continuing the Income Management element of Cape York Welfare Reform

 

Income Management supports 25,033 vulnerable people in locations across Australia, including individuals referred by child protection authorities. A high proportion of Income Management participants are Indigenous.

 

Funding for Income Management was due to cease on 30 June 2017. Government has decided to extend Income Management in all existing locations until 30 June 2019.

 

Extending Income Management for two years ensures continuity of support for vulnerable participants and will allow Government time to work through future directions for welfare quarantining.

 

There are high risks associated with ceasing Income Management without a mechanism to replace it. An influx of cash into Income Management sites could lead to an increase in levels of violence, hospitalisation and abuse. Income Management also increases food security in communities as it encourages community stores to stock plenty of food and household goods. This could be compromised if Income Management were to cease on 30 June 2017.

 

Cape York Welfare Reform is a partnership between the communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge, the Australian Government, the Queensland Government and the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership. It aims to restore local Indigenous authority, rebuild social norms, encourage positive behaviours, and improve economic and living conditions.

 

The Family Responsibilities Commission, which is established under Queensland Government legislation, is a key part of Cape York Welfare Reform. Local Commissioners hold conferences with community members, refer people to support services and, when necessary, can decide to place people on Income Management. Income Management acts both as a means to ensure financial stability for families and as an incentive for the individual to engage with support services and make positive behavioural change.

 

Currently, a person can be placed on Income Management under Cape York Welfare Reform only after a decision by the Family Responsibilities Commission made before 1 July 2017.

 

This Schedule amends the Social Security Administration Act to extend this date to 1 July 2019, enabling Income Management to continue in the four Cape York Welfare Reform communities for a further two years.

 

In 2016, Income Management was extended to the community of Doomadgee. The same referral pathway (a decision by the Family Responsibilities Commission) applied in the four Cape York Welfare Reform communities applies in Doomadgee. As such, this Bill also extends Income Management in Doomadgee for a further two years.

 

To date, Cape York Welfare Reform has made a real difference in the lives of Indigenous people. Since it began in July 2008, these four communities have seen improved school attendance, care and protection of children and community safety.

 

A 2012 evaluation of Cape York Welfare Reform found that progress has been made at the foundational level in stabilising social circumstances and fostering behavioural change, particularly in the areas of sending children to school, caring for children and increasing individual responsibility.

 

 

 

 

 



Explanation of the changes

 

Amendments to the Social Security Administration Act

 

Paragraphs 123UF(1)(g) and 123UF(2)(h) of the Social Security Administration Act currently provide that a person can be subject to Income Management under section 123UF only after a decision by the Family Responsibilities Commission made before 1 July 2017.

 

Item 2 omits the references to 1 July 2017 in paragraph 123UF(1)(g) and paragraph 123UF(2)(h), and substitutes references to 1 July 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

 

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the

Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

SOCIAL SERVICES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT

(QUEENSLAND COMMISSION INCOME MANAGEMENT REGIME) BILL 2017

 

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

Overview of the Bill [Schedule]

The Bill introduces a minor amendment to the Social Security Administration Act. Paragraphs 123UF(1)(g) and 123UF(2)(h) of the Social Security Administration Act provide that a person can only be subject to Income Management under section 123UF after a decision by the Family Responsibilities Commission made before 1 July 2017.

 

The Bill amends the date in paragraphs 123UF(1)(g) and 123UF(2)(h) to

1 July 2019.

 

The purpose of the amendment is to allow Income Management to continue in the Cape York Welfare Reform communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge, and the community of Doomadgee, for a further two years. This aligns with Government’s decision to extend Income Management in all existing locations to

30 June 2019.

 

Human rights implications

The right to social security

 

Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognises ‘ the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance’. The United Nations Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the UN Committee) has stated that implementing this right requires a country to, within its maximum available resources, provide ‘ a minimum essential level of benefits to all individuals and families that will enable them to acquire at least essential health care, basic shelter and housing, water and sanitation, foodstuffs, and the most basic form of education ’.

 

Measures such as Income Management , which restrict what welfare can be spent on, do not detract from the eligibility of a person to receive welfare, nor reduce the amount of a person’s social security entitlement. Rather, these types of arrangements provide a mechanism to ensure that certain recipients of social security entitlements use a proportion of their entitlement to acquire essential items, including all of those referred to by the UN Committee.

 

The UN Committee has stated that the right to social security encompasses the right to access and maintain benefits ‘in cash or in kind’. Income Management does not detract from situations in which someone has the right to social security, such as unemployment and workplace injury, and family and child support - it simply supports a person further once they have achieved their right to receive social security.

 

The right to self-determination

 

Article 1 of the ICESCR states that ‘ all peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development’.

 

The continuation of Income Management will not affect the means of subsistence or political status of any person or group, but will require that, subject to certain exceptions, a certain proportion of social security payments of people subject to the Income Management regime must be spent on priority goods and services such as food and rent. While Income Management does to an extent limit a person’s ability to spend their social security payments freely on excluded goods and services, it does not impact on or interfere with their right to pursue freely their economic, social or cultural development. The limitation under Income Management on how social security payments may be spent is to ensure that the essential needs of vulnerable people, including women and children, are met and that they are protected against risks of homelessness and financial exploitation.

 

This limitation is reasonable and proportionate to achieve a legitimate objective, as discussed above, and is necessary to promote other rights by ensuring that income support payments are used to meet the essential needs of vulnerable people and their dependents, and that these people are protected against risks of homelessness and financial exploitation. Any limitation that may occur is therefore necessary to pursue the legitimate objectives of the program.

 

The rights of equality and non-discrimination

 

The rights of equality and non-discrimination are provided by a number of the seven core international human rights treaties to which Australia is a party, most relevantly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (the CERD). In particular, Article 5 of the CERD requires parties ‘ to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law’ notably in the enjoyment of ‘the right to…social security and social services ’ (Article 5(e)(iv)).

 

Discrimination is impermissible differential treatment among persons or groups that results in a person or a group being treated less favourably than others, based on a prohibited ground for discrimination, such as race. However, the UN Human Rights Committee has recognised that ‘ not every differentiation of treatment will constitute discrimination, if the criteria for such differentiation are reasonable and objective, and if the aim is to achieve a purpose which is legitimate under the Covenant ’.

 

While Income Management does not directly limit the rights of equality and non-discrimination, it may indirectly limit these rights. Around 85 per cent of Income Management participants are Indigenous. However, measures such as Income Management , which restrict what welfare can be spent on, are aimed at achieving legitimate objectives and are not applied on the basis of race or cultural factors. Income Management operates in a range of locations which were chosen based on demonstrated high levels of disadvantage indicated by a range of factors which are reasonable, objective and non-race based, such as the number of people receiving welfare payments and the length of time people have been receiving welfare payments.

 

People may go onto Income Management for a range of reasons, including:

 

·          being in receipt of particular welfare payments; or

·          having been referred for Income Management ; or

·          having volunteered to participate.

 

Anyone residing in a location where Income Management operates is eligible for Income Management , as long as specific eligibility criteria are met. Income Management is therefore not targeted at people of a particular race, but to income support recipients who meet particular criteria.

 

To the extent that Income Management measures may disproportionately affect Indigenous people, any such limitation is reasonable and proportionate to achieve its objectives. As evidenced by the evaluations of IM conducted to date in the locations in which it operates, the program has led to an increase in funds being directed towards people’s priority needs, leading to improvements in wellbeing for individuals, families and children. Additionally, Cape York Welfare Reform has had a positive impact on community behaviours such as positive changes in school attendance, increasing commitment to education by parents, growing Indigenous authority and decreasing levels of violence.

 

The right to an adequate standard of living

 

Article 11(1) of the ICESCR states that everyone has the right to ‘ an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions’ ,and that ‘appropriate steps’ be taken to ‘ ensure realisation of this right’. Further to this, article 11(2) of the ICESCR states that ‘ measures, including specific programs,’ should be taken in ‘ recognising the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger’.

 

Income Management does not limit the right to an adequate standard of living, as the program supports individuals to achieve and maintain an adequate standard of living through the purchase of essential goods and services, including food, clothing, water and housing. These essential goods are all classified as priority needs under Part 3B of the Act and income managed funds can be used to purchase them. The program therefore aims to advance this right by ensuring that money is available for priority goods and services, such as housing, food and clothing, in situations where individuals need additional support to meet these needs. In turn, this helps stabilise an individual’s living circumstances and financial situation, enabling them to focus on caring for children and/or joining or returning to work.

 

Income Management does not restrict the availability, adequacy and accessibility of essential needs required to maintain an adequate standard of living. The availability, adequacy and accessibility of essential needs is maintained through the ability of Income Management participants to purchase goods and services through a range of payment options, including via direct deductions to third parties through the Department of Human Services and a wide footprint of merchants that accept BasicsCard, both within and outside areas in which Income Management currently operates.

 

The right to a private life

 

Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, sets out the right to a private life. It prohibits arbitrary or unlawful interferences with an individual’s privacy, family, correspondence or home.

 

Income Management seeks to direct welfare towards priority needs such as housing, food and clothing. It does this by quarantining a certain proportion of income support payments made to Income Management participants and restricting what it can be spent on.

 

By limiting a person’s choice in how they access and spend their money, Income Management impacts on the right to a private life. However, this limitation on a person’s right to a private life is reasonable and proportionate to achieve Income Management’s objectives of ensuring income support payments are used to meet the essential needs of vulnerable people and their dependents.

 

Conclusion

 

The amendment is compatible with human rights. Income Management will advance the protection of human rights by ensuring that income support payments are spent in the best interests of welfare payment recipients and their dependents. To the extent they may limit human rights, those limitations are reasonable, necessary and proportionate to achieving the legitimate objective of reducing immediate hardship and deprivation, reducing violence and harm, particularly against women and children, encouraging socially responsible behaviour, and reducing the likelihood that welfare payment recipients will be subject to harassment and abuse in relation to their welfare payments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Circulated by the authority of the Minister for Social Services, the Hon Christian Porter MP]