Thursday, February 24, 2005

Welfare Reform

FORTY years ago, fewer than one in 30 working-age adults relied on welfare payments as their main source of income. Today the figure is one in six. The Government now wants to stem this increase.Two of the key factors driving the growth of welfare dependency have been the increased numbers claiming Disability Support Pension and Parenting Payments. A cabinet blueprint proposes reforms to both these benefits.
The Labor Party and some vociferous welfare lobby groups seem set to oppose the changes but the case for both reforms is compelling, and public opinion is behind them.
The proportion of the working-age population on DSP has doubled since 1981. Although Australians have been getting healthier, the number of people under 65 defined as incapable of working has swollen to more than 700,000 (much higher than the number of unemployed). Many of these people are really "hidden unemployed" rather than disabled.
Half of those entering DSP each year are long-term jobless transferring from unemployment benefits. Because DSP pays more than Newstart and requires no mutual obligation, it is more attractive to claimants, and because it gets hard-to-place clients off its books, it also suits Job Network providers when claimants switch.
Most of the increase in DSP rates has little or nothing to do with incapacity. One-third of claimants cite musculoskeletal complaints that are often quite minor. Another quarter have psychological problems that may or may not be debilitating.
Many DSP claimants are older men with limited skills who have had difficulty finding work. They should be helped by reforming the labour market laws to generate more jobs, but for the past 30 years they have instead been shunted on to the disability pension and then forgotten. Once on the pension, claimants rarely come off until retirement.
The Government wants to tighten the definition of incapacity to put a stop to this slippage from unemployment into disability. It has public backing. A 2003 ACNielsen poll for the Centre for Independent Studies found nearly two-thirds of the public wants tighter rules.
Groups representing the disabled should also back this reform because limiting DSP to those who genuinely cannot work would release money that could better be spent improving support services for those who really do need help, and for their carers.
Much the same arguments apply to reform of the Parenting Payment. Although many lone parents work, half rely on the Parenting Payment as their sole or main source of income. As with DSP, the payment is more generous than the unemployment benefit and there is little mutual obligation required. Under present rules, sole parents are entitled to stay on welfare until their youngest child reaches school-leaving age. Many do just that. The average time sole parents spend on welfare is 12 years, during which time their skills erode and work habits attenuate. When entitlement eventually runs out, many are left unemployable.
As with disability, so with the rearing of young children; nobody resents giving help where aid is really needed. Very young children benefit from having a parent at home to look after them and it would be wrong to push sole parents into work while they are still caring for babies and toddlers.
But many parents return to work when their children start school and there is no reason why sole parents on welfare should not do likewise. Australia is one of very few countries where sole parents are not expected to re-enter the workforce once their children start school - the Americans and all the continental European countries insist on it as a fair and reasonable requirement.
Public opinion also sees this as reasonable. The ACNielsen survey found 84 per cent think single parents on welfare should work part-time once their children start school and government research found many sole parents agree with this. With both the DSP and Parenting Payment, therefore, the case for reform is compelling. We can nevertheless anticipate fierce resistance from opponents.
Now just to let my American blog buddies know, our welfare is a generic name that covers a dozen different varieties of "handouts". We have Jobstart....newstart....SPP.....PP....Unemployment benefits....and the list goes on.
If my memory serves me correct, those that have been imprisoned in America, on release are not allowed "welfare"........some please correct me if i am wrong. In Australia, its not the case.
I also believe in America you are only allowed to stay on welfare a brief Australia we have a few lazy pricks who havent worked a day in their life because they rort the system.


Blogger if_i_had_a_hammer said...

wellfare's a touchy subject...i was on unemployment for a short time. about three months, i think. the store i was working at closed down and it took a little while to find a new job, but as soon as i did and cancelled my benefits.

i earned those, too. i'd paid into the system since i was 13 years old and i had no shame or guilt about getting a small portion of that back.

i'm more or less gainfully employed and taxes are taken out of my check every two weeks and i really could care less. it's kinda like going to the casino with 100 bucks; i go with the intention of losing that money, but then again, i don't have little mouths to feed. to be honest, i can barely feed myself, but that's another matter.

lots of people bitch and moan about wellfare over here; people are always looking to reform it, but honestly, i don't see what all the fuss is about. i'm sure people do abuse the system, but i'm sure those cases are rare--much more rare than cases of the government abusing the public. but that's just my opinion.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Jack the blogger said...

" Australia we have a few lazy pricks who havent worked"
So a few lazy pricks in Australia have ya? Just how does a prick get lazy? Does is just lie around all the time? What about the women who haven't worked? Are they also called lazy pricks? Do tell Michelle.

8:34 AM  
Blogger magz said...

hmmmm... i see He Who Usedta Like Me has been here before me...
I dunno sis.. I live in my own mind, not the real world.. but it always made sense to me to avoid having kids if ya cant afford to feed em.. they're kinda like pets that way.. sweet and friendly when well fed, but they'll chew yer leg off when hungry..
I say sure! welfare for a single mom.. BUT.. part of the qualifying condition for child support from the gov would be mandatory spaying and neutering for anyone after the first baby that wishes to remain on the dole..
and why cant all these stay-at-home welfare mommas make a great living working for organizations specializing in phone sex services.. or telemarketing? For the good of society and all mankind of course...

10:20 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

J~ I too have been in the cue in the unemployment office, although many years ago now and i would not hesitate to take money from the govt as i like many others, have always paid my taxes.
Our welfare system is far more generous than America's,and in many ways, not very well thought out hence more are encouraged to linger on it.

Jack ~ Yeppers, the chicks are also lazy pricks..LOL
But, there is a real gender difference happening. You see women are good at falsifying documents etc and appear to know all the rorts to gain more money. Men on the other hand are just happy never to work or use illness as an excuse to gain handouts. Fortunately these are a small percentage.

Magz~ Sis, excellent point made, unfortunately there are women out there who just "don't get it". Many do work voluntary jobs as it is a govt requirement to get the dole.

7:27 PM  
Blogger Bookfraud said...

i always thought that australia was blissfully socialist in its welfare state but i guess when the system gets top heavy, it won't work. you could get rid of the lazy pricks by doing what they do here, which is give shitty welfare benefits. discourages lazy pricks. also hinders genuinely disadvantaged folk from improving their station in life (yeah, i'm spoiling for a fight over this).

anyone given serious thought to a negative income tax? was almost the law in America -- an idea that germinated in the Nixon administration, of all places.

6:51 AM  
Blogger riskybiz said...

We had reform in the late 90s in Ontario.
I know this single mom who had a kid around 4 years old and she was on welfare.
She refused support from the father(she wanted him to have nothing to do in their lives) and didn't work claiming she was a single mom.
The reforms required her to get a job or get cut off.
She is still working 7 years later and the kid is fine.
Sometimes a shove is needed.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Bf ~ that's the trouble, we are blissfully socialist...and its costing us.

Risky ~ Someone needs to do some shoving down here!

5:30 PM  

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