On Friday 13 July VCOSS provided the below statement to News Limited responding to new social support data and the Federal Government’s Inquiry into Intergenerational Welfare Dependence.
All remarks are attributable to VCOSS Deputy CEO Mary Sayers.
Intergenerational disadvantage is what happens when we fail to implement the right policies to combat chronic poverty.
It should come as no surprise when people in some suburbs need help to afford the basics, just as their parents did.
Intergenerational disadvantage means we as a society have failed those communities.
Nobody chooses a life of poverty and disadvantage. If somebody is receiving a Centrelink payment for a prolonged period of time it’s generally for one of three reasons.
- They’re an old age or disability pension recipient.
- The payment they’re receiving is too small for them to realistically get their life back on track, as is the case with Newstart, or
- They’re otherwise missing out on the necessary supports, incentives, opportunities or assistance required to lead a good life.
The answer to intergenerational disadvantage is investing in a national support system that genuinely sets people up for success, rather than dragging them down further.
The Select Committee has been tasked with making recommendation to break ‘cycles of disadvantage’.
VCOSS is hopeful the Committee will make workable, evidence-based recommendations to alleviate poverty.
Our fear is the Inquiry will be a smokescreen for grubby ideological attacks on people who receive government support.
This Inquiry must do more than ‘blame and shame’ people receiving welfare.
If the Commonwealth really wants to combat intergenerational disadvantage it must do three things as a matter of urgency: raise Newstart, make the jobactive system actually work for jobseekers and develop a National Housing Strategy to make sure everybody has a home.
Newstart is currently set so low it’s actually trapping people in poverty. Newstart, at its current level, is a handbrake on opportunity. But the Federal Government shouldn’t need another inquiry to tell it to raise Newstart. A chorus of top economists, industry leaders, social service groups and unions have already made the case.
The current jobactive system is overly complex and punitive. It forces people to undertake endless meaningless tasks rather than actually helping them find a good job. Reform of jobactive is essential to help people break the cycle of poverty.
Housing is crucial for a life of comfort and safety. Everybody needs a place to live. By some estimates Australia will need 500,000 social and affordable homes by 2026. In short, we desperately need more public, community and affordable housing. The Federal Government must work with the states and territories to implement a genuine and workable National Housing Strategy.