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Omnibus Bill: most vulnerable still affected by low allowances

Published: 16 September 2016

The Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill passed by the Senate last night is an improvement on its predecessor, but will still cause distress for the most vulnerable members of society, according to the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW).

President, Professor Karen Healy AM, says the AASW welcomes the changes that won't reduce most welfare payments – but other elements of the Bill, such as changes to Carer Allowance, will still adversely affect the clients of social workers.

She says governments need to abandon the policy outlook that sees the country as an economy rather than a society.

“While there is a need to manage budgets, this has to be done equitably if it is to be sustainable,” Professor Healy said.

“If the government is committed to achieving economic growth, a key step must be increasing the inadequate rate of allowances, rather than try to make cuts to them.

“The current rates of Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy are simply too low. They are not fulfilling either of their functions of preventing people falling into chronic poverty or acting as an effective incentive to assist people to achieve paid employment.”

Professor Healy added that Australia has increasing youth unemployment and needs educational pathways to improve young people’s futures.

““We are also failing to adequately support our tertiary students. The AASW’s research conducted with James Cook University shows that Australia is not supporting students enough financially,” Professor Healy said.

“All allowance rates must be raised substantially so they bring people above the poverty line.”

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AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers