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Budget further entrenches people into poverty: AASW

Published: 9 May 2017

Budget further entrenches people into poverty: AASW

The 2017 budget takes a punitive approach to welfare and targets some of the most vulnerable members of society. It will push people who are struggling even further into poverty and social exclusion, the President of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), Professor Karen Healy, AM, has said tonight.

“Managing the economy includes a responsibility to look after the wellbeing of all Australians and the government has disregarded this in tonight’s budget,” said Professor Healy.

She says the AASW welcomes the increased funding for mental health services for veterans and people in rural areas, and the extra funding for mental health services should be directed to psycho-social interventions that promote access to practical resources such as housing and community support needed to live a quality life.

The AASW also endorses the increase in the Medicare levy to secure funding for the NDIS and welcomes the increase in funding to address the needs of those affected by institutional abuse.

Professor Healy says the AASW does, however, have serious concerns over the lack of regard this government has for welfare recipients.

“Like every other major social services group has argued, the way to address welfare dependency is to increase payments as current levels are so low they serve as barriers to employment,” said Professor Healy.

“People look to their government for support but tonight the government has further marginalised people by introducing random drug testing for welfare recipients. This is a stigmatising measure that contradicts the evidence on best practice in reducing harmful use of substances.”

She said the measure might win votes but it denies the complex issues facing people experiencing addictions. “We are concerned about the targeting of vulnerable groups, particularly the long term unemployed and those who struggle with addictions.”

The proposal to suspend up to a month’s worth of payments for those who do not meet work-seeking obligations is also likely to have far reaching and negative consequences for vulnerable individuals, Professor Healy says.

This budget does include some positive measures for vulnerable Australians. The AASW applauds the measures to increase access to health and mental health services and to support the NDIS.

“We are disappointed by changes to higher education funding that will increase financial stresses on graduates. Similarly the lack of investment in addressing climate change is a major gap in this budget,” Professor Healy said.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers