Ian Jones believes the proposed income management measures could work.
Ian Jones believes the proposed income management measures could work. File

Crackdown on welfare abusers

ROBERT Schwarten yesterday applauded a Federal Government move which could lead to a future crackdown on the city’s welfare abusers who blow all their cash on alcohol and other addictions.

The Rudd government wants to force certain welfare recipients around the country to spend half of their payments on essentials like food and clothing (see accompanying fact box).

The move was yesterday backed by a local welfare worker and Mr Schwarten, the Member for Rockhampton, who is organising a summit in the city to fight escalating social disorder and crime rates which he believes are closely linked to alcohol and drug abuse.

“It’s a bit much when people are provided with money to sustain themselves and they use all that income on alcohol or other addictive substances, they reside in public parks to the exclusion of other people, and then they have to be fed by generous people,” said Mr Schwarten.

The Rudd Government says measures will be rolled out across all disadvantaged areas across the Northern Territory from next year.

These will then be reviewed, before being extended across the country.

The measures already apply to 73 indigenous communities in the NT.

Member for Capricornia Kirsten Livermore yesterday said the move was aimed at protecting children and families and helping disengaged individuals.

Ms Livermore said the decision to expand the program was based on a thorough evaluation of the Northern Territory experience which had shown the system had effectively increased the amount of money being spent on essentials.

“I can see this being a positive thing for a lot of people,” Ms Livermore said.

“This is not a knee-jerk reaction... when faced with that kind of evidence as a government it’s quite easy to say let’s see if this can work in other parts of Australia.”

On a daily basis, Salvation Army Rockhampton community welfare manager Ian Jones sees the pressures substance abuse and financial mismanagement are putting on the region’s families.

Mr Jones said in the past year there had been a doubling in demand for support with between 40 and 45 people being seen each day.

It’s his personal opinion the measures could work.

“There are a lot of people with addictions out there,” Mr Jones said.

“Others don’t have the training (to manage their affairs). A lot of people are not trying to do anything to help themselves out.

“They need to have money put aside for food, electricity and rent and then they get the balance.

“Rent and food are the big problems.”

The future roll out elsewhere in Australia will be informed by the evidence gained from evaluation activity of the Northern Territory situation.

welfare reform

As part of major reforms to the welfare system, the Australian Government will introduce a new income management scheme to protect children and families and help disengaged individuals.

Participants of the new income management scheme will include:

People aged 15 to 24 who have been in receipt of specified welfare payments for more than three of the last 6 months;

People aged 25 and above on specified welfare payments such as Newstart Allowance and Parenting Payment for more than one year in the last two years;

People referred for income management by child protection authorities; and

People assessed by Centrelink social workers as requiring income management due to vulnerability to financial crisis, domestic violence or economic abuse.

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