Budget passes fairness test with measures to lift Australians out of poverty
8 May 2012
The Budget passes the fairness test by reducing cost-of-living pressures on low-income households, providing more assistance to highly disadvantaged job seekers and by laying a platform for reform of social infrastructure in the areas of disability and aged care.
“The best way out of poverty is to gain skills and steady work and the Brotherhood of St Laurence welcomes the focus in the Budget on measures that help people achieve this goal,” said Executive Director Tony Nicholson.
“Ensuring children get a good start at school lays the foundations for a rewarding working life,” Mr Nicholson said.
“The expansion of an early-learning program for disadvantaged families, the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY), will help more parents to prepare their children for success at school. HIPPY is also often a way into work for the people who are trained and employed as tutors, as they are often former parents in the program. A rigorous evaluation of the program, which is run by the Brotherhood of St Laurence, found that it closes the educational gap between disadvantaged children and the Australian norm.”
The “schoolkids bonus” cash payments for families that receive Family Tax Benefit A will help them provide for their children’s education - including the 1 million families that claimed nothing, or less than they were entitled to, under the Education Tax Refund which the cash payments replace.
Mr Nicholson said: “Expansion of child-care fee assistance under the JETCCFA program will make a big difference for single parents in getting back into work.
“While we would rather have seen a more substantial rise in the Newstart allowance than that contained in the new supplementary allowance, if choices have to be made in a Budget containing significant social expenditure initiatives, in a growing economy the Government has made the right decision to focus on jobs and people’s ability to get them.
“After all, that’s what unemployed people aspire to. Irrespective of the adequacy of Newstart, they don’t aspire to be part of an unemployed underclass.
‘The more generous liquid assets test for eligibility to receive Newstart is particularly welcome because it will enable people to retain some capacity to meet unexpected expense and avoid having to seek emergency assistance.
“Changes to the Parenting Support Payment complete the process begun under the Howard government of recasting it as a working-age payment rather than as a pension where the recipient is expected to be out of the workforce.
“This reflects the expectations of the vast majority of parents that they will be in one form or another of paid work once their children are well settled in school. If parents remain on support payments for years, disconnected from the world of work, it’s much harder for them to re-enter the workforce.
“The test of the fairness of this measure will be the extent to which the support and training offered to parents are effective in helping them make the transition into the world of paid work.”
“One of the significant barriers to getting in to work is poor dental health,” Mr Nicholson said. “Finding and keeping work is tough if you have painful and unsightly problems with your teeth.”
“We welcome the $350 million for a blitz on waiting lists and the commitment to reforms in the 2013-14 Budget with the expectation that these will lead to a universal dental scheme.
“This would help to turn around the situation, reported in a Brotherhood of St Laurence research report last year, of 1 million work days and 600,000 school days lost annually because of poor dental health at a cost to the economy of $660 million in lost productivity.”
National Disability Insurance Scheme
“Disability leaves many Australians in poverty. The Budget commitment to the National Disability Insurance Scheme lays the platform for major reform that will mean disability does not cast people, and their carers, into poverty,” Mr Nicholson said.
Media contacts: Jeannie Zakharov on 0428 391 117