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Budget disappointing: welfare reform architect.

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14-05-2002 Budget Disappointing - Welfare Reform Architect

Mission Australia today expressed concern at delays in the Federal Government�s Budget commitment to key aspects of welfare reform.


Mission Australia CEO, Patrick McClure, who chaired the independent Reference Group on Welfare Reform, said he was disappointed with the decision to defer implementation of Working Credit, from September until the end of April next year.

"Incentives and Financial Assistance" was the third pillar of welfare reform. In its final report, the Reference Group saw Working Credit as important in providing incentives for unemployed people to access casual and part time work � the growth area in the labour market.

"With 860 000 Australian children growing up in jobless families, I wanted to see an investment in participation, and returns on this investment would be getting disadvantaged job seekers into work.


"This was the fifth pillar of the McClure Report. In the global economy, there are many rural and remote regions, as well as outlying parts of capital cities, which are missing out on opportunities for social and economic participation.

"There is a need for building community capacity in these regions. Mission Australia has outlined the need for community-business partnerships, social enterprises, and incentives and training for micro-business. There are no new apparent funding initiatives in this area, and there are delays in the Community Business Engagement funding.


"There are 650 000 people on the Disability Support Pension in Australia. Mission Australia welcomes better assessment of individuals, both in terms of their medical condition and capacity for work," Mr McClure said.

"Mission Australia welcomes the 73 000 extra places (over three years) in the Personal Support Program; education and training; specialist disability, employment and rehabilitation services; and Job Network.

"We are concerned that moves to modify eligibility criteria (eg: reduction of hours worked from 30 to 15) for the Disability Support Pension could disadvantage some people with disabilities. The McClure Report recognised the cost of disability and the need for a Participation Supplement and services for these people.


"Mission Australia welcomes some of the changes to Intensive Assistance, which mean disadvantaged clients will be supported equitably by providers, eliminating "creaming" or "parking". Mission Australia has always been committed to getting the best outcomes in terms of jobs for disadvantaged job seekers.

"We welcome the initiative to support unemployed Intensive Assistance clients over a three year period, which means there is continuity of support and better outcomes for those individuals.

"We have reservations about the reduction of Intensive Assistance from 12 months to six, as this might not be sufficient time to provide adequate support, counselling and training for this very disadvantaged group. There needs to be flexibility to ensure the needs of this diverse group are met.

"Mission Australia acknowledges the costs associated with job seeking by disadvantaged clients (eg: transport, clothing, training, telephone and interpreter services). We query the adequacy of $850 per client to meet these costs, particularly for those in rural and remote areas," Mr McClure said.


Based on this Budget, Mission Australia is looking ahead and calls for funding for implementation of some of the key recommendations of welfare reform, including:

A simpler and responsive income support structure ● An integrated IT system, linking Centrelink and Job Network providers, to assist job seekers through the range of programs ●

A Participation Supplement for job seekers ● Further community capacity building initiatives. ●

Authorised by Mission Australia CEO, Patrick McClure.

Issued by Andrew White, Senior Media Adviser, (02) 9219 2066/0418 200 893 and Paul Andrews, A/National Manager, PR & Communications, (02) 9219 2080.

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