CATH NEWS REPORT: If we want to give extremely disadvantaged people a better opportunity to live a decent life, we need to do more than threaten them with destitution, Catholic Social Services Australia executive director Frank Quinlan told The Catholic Weekly.
The Australian had reported that the opposition's treasury spokesman, Joe Hockey, canvassed a change in Coalition policy to give Centrelink case workers power to quarantine welfare payments to families."We need to offer practical help with problems they can't solve on their own," he said. "Providing opportunity is about more than providing money."
In a speech to the Sydney Institute last week, Mr Hockey argued that income management – now only in select communities – should be rolled out nationally where children may be at risk from parental drug abuse, gambling and other lifestyle choices.
Mr Hockey said case workers "should also have the capacity to consider the extension of income management – the control of welfare payments through quarantining and direct pay schemes – where they believe that it is warranted".
"A system that encourages reliance on welfare is an addiction that becomes difficult to escape," Mr Hockey said.
Mr Hockey said to reduce the potential for long-term welfare dependency, there needed to be an evaluation of the support structures available to those who had been on handouts for years.
"In this regard, we need to look at the provision of intensive case management for those that have been receiving payments like Newstart or, where appropriate, the Disability Support Pension, for extended periods," he said.
Mr Quinlan said: "The Shadow Treasurer is on the right track when he said 'we need to look at the provision of intensive case management for those that have been receiving payments like Newstart or, where appropriate, the Disability Support Pension, for extended periods'.
"However, we need to look at exactly what 'intensive case management means' and what the purpose of that intensive case management is."
"(In) an overburdened welfare to work system, case management is often focused on getting people to keep applying for jobs by threatening to cut them off income support if they stop and not on addressing the issues at the heart of the problem. Unless we can address the underlying problems, the cycle of disadvantage will continue."