Welfare reforms 'different' to NT

ONLY a small number of Rockhampton’s welfare recipients will lose the right to manage the bulk of their payments when a new program is rolled out in the city next year.

Yesterday, Minister for Human Services Tanya Plibersek described the compulsory income management planned for Rockhampton as “completely different” to the Northern Territory intervention program, where a broader-based system operates.

Rockhampton is one of 10 locations across Australia selected in the 2011-12 Budget for a wave of welfare reforms to address entrenched disadvantage and boost workplace participation (see accompanying fact box for programs).

Though the city has more than 1200 jobless families and 500 teenage parents, the income management reform will apply to those “small number of cases” where authorities fear children are at risk, people could lose their homes, recipients are being exploited or substance abuse is causing self destruction.

The Member for Capricornia, Kirsten Livermore, has been at the forefront of bringing the reforms to Rockhampton.

Statistics show the region had a higher unemployment rate, greater percentage of people seeking Centrelink assistance and larger ratio of youngsters not finishing high school compared to state and national averages.

“These programs will provide more intensive and tailored support for people in the Rockhampton region, helping them back into the workforce and ensuring they reap the benefits of community participation,” Ms Plibersek said.

She said where compulsory income management was required recipients would have between half and 70% of their money spent for them on the necessities of life.

Yesterday, representatives from about 40 Rockhampton community groups, welfare agencies and government departments met Ms Plibersek and Ms Livermore to discuss the programs.

Anglicare’s CQ CEO Phil Shade was keen to hear details of programs that could have such a positive effect.

Mr Shade said income management support would be of great use for the city’s growing number of disadvantaged.

However, he aired reservations about making money management compulsory, with some affected likely to be less than “willing to embrace this”.

It’s expected about 1000 a people a year will be involved in the programs nationally.

The initiatives will be rolled out from the start to middle of next year.


Stepping in

The following workforce participation programs are being set up in Rockhampton as part of a national trial response program to prepare disadvantaged communities for the future:

$74m nationally for Case Co-ordination, empowering local Centrelink staff to provide a more tailored individual approach to help people;

$25m nationally for the Innovation through Collaboration Fund to assist community groups deliver programs to assist families and individuals find services, employment and education;

$47m nationally for Teenage Parents. Those receiving parenting payments, with a child aged six months or older, will be required to attend compulsory support and engagement interviews with Centrelink to help prepare them for the workforce once the child is older;

$71m nationally for Jobless Families where new participation requirement and matching support will be introduced.

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