BSL August Comment v4

BSL August Comment v4

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www.bsl.org.auBrotherhoodCommentISSN 1320 8632August 2002A regular update from Social Action and ResearchMissing the mark: The impact ofproposed welfare reforms on parentsThe long awaited ‘welfare reform’ legislation is It may be helpful to assist some parents in program, many could be expectednow being considered by the Senate Community developing goals, and finding resources to to do so. The 1997 evaluation ofAffairs References Committee, which is due to support them in achieving them. To this end, the the JET program showed that report back by 13 September 2002. participation agreement could be useful. However, 20 per cent of people eligible didthe compulsory nature of the agreement and not participate due only to lack ofThe Family and Community Services Legislation participation activities may make some parents knowledge of the programAmendment (Australians Working Together and feel that it is simply a bureaucratic requirement (Department of Social Securityother 2001 Budget Measures) Bill 2002 includes imposed on them, rather than reflecting their 1997). The introduction ofseveral initiatives as part of the Australians own aspirations. requirements for parents couldWorking Together package. therefore be expected to lead to anPrograms aimed at increasing ‘employability’ need to be congruent with a person’sown goals, rather than simply being imposed on someone who is felt to need themThe most contentious is the introduction of If requirements are ...

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Programs aimed at increasing ‘employability’ need to be congruent with a person’s own goals, rather than simply being imposed on someone who is felt to need them
The long awaited ‘welfare reform’ legislation is It may be helpful to assist some parents in program, many could be expected now being considered by the Senate Community developing goals, and finding resources to to do so. The 1997 evaluation of Affairs References Committee, which is due to support them in achieving them. To this end, the the JET program showed that report back by 13 September 2002. participation agreement could be useful. However, 20 per cent of people eligible did the compulsory nature of the agreement and not participate due only to lack of The Family and Community Services Legislation participation activities may make some parents knowledge of the program Amendment (Australians Working Together and feel that it is simply a bureaucratic requirement (Department of Social Security other 2001 Budget Measures) Bill 2002 includes imposed on them, rather than reflecting their 1997). The introduction of several initiatives as part of the Australians own aspirations. requirements for parents could Working Together package. therefore be expected to lead to an
The most contentious is the introduction of If requirements are increased, some other issues increase in demand for JET of at a compulsory ‘participation agreement’ as a will need to be considered. More exemptions will least 20 per cent. Substantial condition of eligibility for parenting payment need to be incorporated into the legislation for additional resources will be for parents with their youngest child aged those for whom extra requirements would be required for the JET program to between 13 and 15 years. Parents will have to unreasonable. These include parents who have remain effective. complete up to 150 hours of approved activities separated in the past 12 months, have a major continued on page 2 over a six-month period. The only exemptions health problem, have teenage children with are for those with a profoundly disabled child behavioural, health or learning problems, or are or with two or more children with disabilities victims of domestic violence. Contents requiring equivalent care. Parents with their 3 Breach penalties and youngest child between 6 and 12 years will The Jobs, Education and Training Program (JET) has public opinion have to complete a yearly agreement but do been shown to be an effective and popular program not face compulsory participation. for parents, but with the current resources, it cannot 4 Values and civic meet demand. Feedback from some clients indicates Opportunity or imposition? that waiting times for an appointment with a JET behaviour The government’s stated aim is to assist parents adviser may be two or three months. 6 cEharalllyecnhgieldshoodto return to work. Governments have an important role in expanding opportunities available to people Previous evaluations of JET indicated that 8 Listening in Craigieburn who wish to find work, including the provision of voluntary take-up among some groups, notably programsaimedatincreasingemployability(forpbaerneenfittsswfoitrhaaloNnegwtsitmaret,pwaartsnleorwa.nInddteheodsethoisnh 10 rPeusrpsouninsigbicliotryporateexample, training, work experience, career as planning).Theseprogramsaremostlikelytobecboeemnptuhlseorraytiionntealreiforsthaenidntarcotdivuitcytitoenstoifngfor 12 Listening to children taken up if they are recognised as congruent with v ew a person’s own goals, rather than simply being parents. The Parenting Payment Intervention Pilot 13 Affordable credit imposed on someone who is felt to need them. showed that compulsory interviews would pick up 14 Centrelink and many clients who were eligible for JET (Pearse 2000). While not all of these may need to use the unemployed youth
SI0321SN
A regular update from Social Action and Research
Missing the mark: The impact of proposed welfare reforms on parents
August 2002
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Brother
continued from page 1
hoodComment
Problems of breach penalties The absence of this consideration from the reform live above the poverty line while Breaches will apply to parents who do not meet of parenting payment is curious, since it appears caring for their children as well as their participation requirements. Some aspects of to be at odds with other areas of social security providing support to them when the proposed breaching system represent an policy. Family Tax Benefit Part B, for example, is they want to enter the workforce. improvement on that which applies to Newstart available to families where one or both parents are recipients. For example, if a person is breached for not in the workforce. There is no means test on Stephen Ziguras failing to meet a requirement, but then complies the income of the working parent, so that even (03) 9483 1316 within 13 weeks, the breach penalty will be waived relatively well-off families can receive some sziguras@bsl.org.au (but not the breach itself). payments. This policy appears to reflect a belief that the state should support parenting as an The current welfare reform debate has focused almost exclusively on how to get parents into work, to the unfortunate exclusion of the caring role of parents. However, the experience of breaching of activity in its own right. There is certainly no talk References unemployed people has shown that breaching has of forcing parents from families with one partner Gennetian, L A, Duncan G J, Knox had, whatever the policy intention, a severely working to develop agreements and participate in V W, Vargas W G, Clark-Kauffman detrimental effect on some of the most state-mandated activities! E & London A S 2002, How disadvantaged people in our community. welfare and work policies for The United States experience also provides some parents affect adolescents: A While the breaching system for unemployment unsettling news relating to children. A synthesis of research , Manpower payments is in such disarray, it would be highly considerable body of research suggests that Demonstration Research unwise to extend activity testing and breaching to welfare reform has increased employment among Corporation, viewed 8 July 2002, those on parenting payment. The problems with sole parents, but has had little effect on rates of <http://www.mdrc.org/Reports2002 breaching need to be fixed—notably by reducing poverty and may have had a detrimental effect for /ng_adolescent/ng_adolescentsynt the penalties (see article page 3)—before any teenage children (Gennetian et al. 2002). While hesis_overview.htm>. consideration is given to extending these both the policy and social settings differ quite provisions to new groups. substantially from Australia, these results warn of Pearse, V 2000, ‘Parents’ the possible harmful effects of forcing parents participation and planning: the Parenting undervalued awayfromcaringfortheirchildren.parentingpayrmeesntintdetrovetnhteion The current welfare reform debate has focused nitiatives missin from pilot’, paper p ente almostexclusivelyonhowtogetthoseonparentFpirnoabllay,blsyommoerieimportantforingcreasintghewdoerbkfaotercaereAStuusdtriealsiaCnoInnfsetriteuntcee,ofMFealbmoiluyrne, payment into paid work, to the unfortunate opportunities. The introduction of after-school care July 2000. exclusion of the caring role of parents. Australia for teenagers, reduction of high effective marginal has a declining birth rate, and there is mounting tax bett concernaboutchildrenandyoungpeopleatriskpracrtaitceess,inweorrkppulbalcicestrawnosupldoratllacnodnftarimbiultye-frmieuncdhly1D9e9pa7r,t J m E e T, n t t h o e f j S o o b c s i , a l e d S u e c c a u t r i i o ty n and of unemployment, harmful drug use and suicide. ed amendments to social Thesesuggestweshouldbeprovidinggreatersmeocruerittyhalengtihsleatpiroonp.oAsbroaderperspectiveinthe trreapinoirnt , g D p e r p o a g r r t a m m e : n E t v o a f l u S a o ti c o ia n l support to parents to care for their children. welfare reform debate would also have allowed us Security, Canberra. to consider how policies should support parents to
Published in August 2002 by Brotherhood of St Laurence, 67 Brunswick Street Fitzroy, Victoria, 3065 Australia ABN 24 603 467 024 Telephone 03 9483 1183 Facsimile 03 9417 2691 E-mail publications@bsl.org.au
August 2002
Brotherhood Comment depends on your subscription for its mailing cost (see p 16) Brotherhood Comment is published three times a year by the Social Action and Research Division of the Brotherhood of St Laurence. The Brotherhood of St Laurence works for the well-being of Australians on low incomes to improve their economic, social and personal circumstances. It does this through direct aid and support, and by providing a wide range of services and activities for families, the unemployed and the aged. The Brotherhood also researches the causes of poverty, undertakes community education and lobbies government for a better deal for people on low incomes.
Brotherhood Comment
Listening to sole parents Research undertaken by the BSL indicates that parents receiving income support take their parenting responsibilities very seriously. Some single parents interviewed in 1999 felt that ceasing sole parenting payments when the youngest child turned 12 would have a significant impact on their parenting, because the early teen years were a very important time when they needed to be available to their children. I suppose if you look at the bigger picture…it’s wrong that you’ve got to be pushed out to the workforce and pushed away from parenting. Something is going to suffer. Society will suffer if parents aren’t at home and the kids get up to all sorts of mischief. (Father with two children, no paid work) At 12 they’re still changing, I mean it’s just right at adolescence. (Mother, two children, part-time paid work) There’s no aftercare in high school but there’s not much difference between a grade 6 and a year 7 [child]. (Mother, two children, part-time paid work). Though paid work was seen as attractive, not just in terms of money but in terms of self-esteem, social contact and modelling for children, parenting was seen as a higher priority. The proposed imposition of participation agreements on parents whose youngest child is 13-15 years old needs to be seen in the light of the impact on families.
Breachpenaltiesandpublicopinion Research by the Brotherhood of St Laurence whether Australians think the current levels of indicates that the current high penalties imposed on penalties for breaching are fair or not and what unemployed people for breaches (failing to meet they think the penalties should be. To place this in one of their activity or administrative requirements) context, we also explored public knowledge of are not supported by the general community. levels of unemployment payments. The number of breaches in the social security A telephone survey of a stratified random sample system has escalated dramatically since 1997 (1,200) weighted to the Australian population was (ACOSS 2001). Penalties are falling most heavily on conducted by Newspoll. People were asked what the most disadvantaged job seekers—the homeless they thought the current level of unemployment and people with substance abuse and mental health payments was for a single adult, how much problems. This has resulted in greatly increased someone should be penalised for a breach, and hardship, including some people being made whether the current penalties were fair. homeless, and others turning to crime to survive. Scale of penalties tThhienkretshueltcsurcrleeanrtlypesnhaoltwieesdtwhearteafaimr.ajIonridteytadiild,not The current penalties are extremely high. For an once ‘don’t know’ responses were excluded: unemployed single adult in June 2002, receiving $185 per week, these amount to reductions of: • Almost two-thirds of people believed that the current penalties for a first breach were unfair. $863forthefirstbreach(18percentreductionAroulnides95lopweerrctehnatnotfhreecsuprornednetnltesveplrfooproaslled ofbasepaymentfor26weeks)bpreenaacth • $1,151 for the second breach (24 per cent es. reductionfor26weeks)fToheamfiersdtiabnretaotcahl,p$e5n0alftoiersapsreocpoonsdedbrweearceh$a2n0d $1,476forthethird(nopaymentfor8weeks).$7r5forathird. The Independent Review of Breaches and • One in four people thought there should be no Penalties in the Social Security System penalty whatsoever for a first breach. recommended that, amongst other reforms, the rate and duration of breach penalties should be This survey further suggests that the public would decreased to reduce the overall level of financial support a reduction in breach penalties. Given that penalty (Pearce, Disney & Ridout 2002). While the the current system imposes ‘unnecessary and federal government agreed to implement some unjustifiable hardship’ (Pearce, Disney & Ridout recommendations, it baulked at reducing penalty 2002, p.13) on the most disadvantaged job levels. The Minister for Family and Community seekers, there is a strong case for substantially Services, Senator Amanda Vanstone, argued that: reducing the current level and duration of breach penalties as the Independent Review suggested. Such a softening of the penalty regime does not reflect the wider community’s expectations. The Stephen Ziguras current breach regime, which was extensively (03) 9483 1316 debated and passed in Parliament, is a proper sziguras@bsl.org.au reflection of the community’s expectations…The penalty levels are designed to balance the need A R C e O f a e S c r S t e o n 2 f 0 c s 0 e o 1 s c , iaBlresaecchuirnitgytpheensalatfieetsy , n A e C t: O t S h S e I h n a f r o s h 305 to provide a disincentive to non-compliance i A m C p OSS, Sydn , with the need to avoid putting people into ey. undue hardship (Vanstone 2002, p.2). Pearce, D, D o i f s t n h e e y , I n J de & p R e i n d d o e u n t t , R H e 2 vi 0 e 0 w 2 , ofMBarkeiancghietwordk: The Community expectations R P e e v n i ar e let w ipe o o srf tin B r t e h a e c h S e o s c i a al n S d e P c e u n ri a t l y t ie S s y s i t n e t m he,ISnodceipalend s e a nt n These comments from the Minister raise the Security System, Sydney. question, ‘What are the attitudes of the Australian V2a e 0n w 0s2 s t,o<nmhetet,dpAi:a//2rw0elw0e2wa,.sfea I n c1s d 1. e g p Mo e va n .ra d cu e h/ n i t 2n t 0e b 0r r 2n e ,e a tv c /i h em i i n wn g ef da r c e 8s p . o Jn r us t nf> o e. ld public to the levels of penalties for a breach?’ n Although there have been several studies investigating attitudes of the Australian public The full report The community expects: Public toward requirements for job-seekers, none has oppeionpiloenis a b a o v u a t il a b b r l e e a c at h < p w en w al w t . ie b s s l. f o o r r g u .a n u e > m o p r l o m ye a d y be examined attitudes to the level of penalties. The ordered from Publications, phone (03) 9483 1386. Brotherhood of St Laurence decided to investigate 3 August 2002
Brotherhood Comment
Values and civic behaviour in Australia
Regular Brotherhood Comment readers will have Australians and values • Few participants believed that beenfollowingthedevelopmentofthaeyBfroorthwearrhdoowidthsThefocusgroupdiscussionsandin-depthAustraliawouldbecometheir tNhiastiocnoanlcEenptgawgaesmteontunPdreorjteackt.eOaurreswearchtrialthatinterviewsdidnotprovideevidenceofidealsociety.Theyhaddistanced themselves from this goal. distinctive values sets associated with Participants believed, however, would provide us with insights into the feasibility of Australians with different socio-economic, that they could achieve their aonnonwtahteieoinrtnivtallaeledune V gs a a l ag u ne e dm s ve a ins n ti d onw c . i i v tT i h c h te b her e e h As a uu v l i st o tirn u a r gl i i ar n en s A pe u au s rb t cl r ih a c l i i s a .iendduivciadtiuoanlsalooftrefnasmtirluygcghlaerdatcoterniastmices.thTehirouvaglhues,personalaspirations,astheyfelt The research had four objectives: there were, in their examples of what they liked powerful and motivated to make  or wanted in Australia, recurrent underlying them happen. • provide insight as to whether there are in fact themes—for example, democracy, freedom, • It can be inferred that agencies justice and care for others—which appeared to engaging the community in cdioffmermeontnvAaulusterasleitasnivnalduifefse,reonrtapadirtvserosfetrhaengeofcutacrossage-groups,incomegroupsandadvocacyorsocialactionwill urban/rural settings. receive support from Australians populationconsistentwithotherTrheesseearfcinhdiwnhgicsharpeolianrtgselyiftheyareseentobeworkingin • determine whether, and if so how, people’s towards values which are widely shared rather the areas of education and personal aspirations are different from their than clusters of different values. health, as these are considered aspirations for the nation valuable. Education in particular reviewthetypesofpoliciesthatpeoplebelievearetThheeseemvaplhuaessisimplpaaccetdoonnsvpaerciiofiucsovpailnuieosnsanadndhowwasseentobeimportantin terms of preventing problems neededtoachievetheiraspirationsforthenationbpearhtaicviipoaunrts.dFioffreirnesdtafrnocem,pmaartniycirpeafnetrrteodtolaterinlife,whilehealthcare • point to ways of framing questions that will family as a value priority, but some expressed was a measure of a good and effectively identify Australians’ value and policy this much more strongly than others compassionate society. positions. . Participants could not see how achieving or failing to achieve one’s personal aspirations related to achieving one’s aspirations for society It was envisaged that the trial would explore the • People had difficulty discussing ‘values’ at a Effective communications potential for a broader conversation with personal level. This was partly because they had This project pointed to ways of Australians about values in relation to society and rarely reflected on the concept and how it maximising the prospects that a future directions for Australia. related to them, partly because of differing message will be heard and will interpretations of ‘values’ and partly because of encourage action. The biggest A three-part research program was undertaken in different words used in the discussions. The barrier to involvement with social 2001-2002. A background paper exploring current evidence suggests that there are considerable issues was the tendency to knowledge of the concept of ‘values’ was barriers to effective conversations convened manage (that is, control) one’s developed concurrently with 16 in-depth around the issue of values. emotional reactions to a problem interviews that explored values and personal and rather than respond to the socialaspirations.Followingthepaperandin-TarheeirneflsueeanrcchedsubgygaenstisndtihvaitdumaalinsyedAuasntdraliansproblemitself. depth interviews, 14 focus group discussions wereundertakentoinvestigatecivicbehaviourpmaarttiecriipalaitsitoicnisnoctiheety.coCmommpuansitsyi,oansfsoisrtiontghers,Itisalsovitalthatmessageshelp and engagement. others and, to a slightly lesser extent, civic Australians to see for themselves that poverty exists in or close to Thisarticlepresentskeyfindingsoftheresearch,csooncitarillbyutdieosnirianblaepboulittitchailssveienswedaoreescnoontsideredtheirowncommunities.People as the project report is being completed. The final necessarily translate into personal action for need to be offered achievable research summary report and related documents these Australians. solutions, to avoid being will be on the Brotherhood’s website overwhelmed by the problem. <www.bsl.org.au>. • Personal aspirations and aspirations for the nation appeared to be largely unrelated. Specifically, participants could not see how achieving or failing to achieve one’s personal aspirations related to achieving one’s aspirations for society.
4 August 2002