Treating Families Fairly alliance response to the Federal Budget
An adequate, reliable income provides the foundation for wellbeing, and this means social security is a key investment in social cohesion and economic strength. Social security reform is desperately needed to provide certainty, stability and dignity for the millions of Australians receiving payments, to support economic recovery and to alleviate poverty. Yet the Federal Budget released on Tuesday has not delivered the essential reforms that we need. Struggling families have been left in the cold.
The Budget has missed an opportunity to build social cohesion and economic recovery by failing to provide basic supports to the large section of the community needing access to decent social security. Instead it has actively increased the use of harmful, discriminatory, and discredited income management.
So-called ‘income management’ was boosted in the Budget, with place-based income management extended, and the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) made ongoing. This reflects the government’s unwavering commitment to punitive income management despite evidence of the harm it causes to people and communities.
The Budget also missed a critical opportunity to invest in social housing. The Australian community has suffered a double loss: we will not get the economic stimulus such an investment would have provided, nor will we see the long-term benefit of meeting a crucial social need. With demand already far beyond capacity and homelessness set to increase as supports are withdrawn and the full force of the recession hits households, the absence of measures to address housing insecurity and homelessness is appalling. This neglect again highlights how essential it is to have a functional social security system capable of supporting Australians through the pandemic and recession, and beyond.
With no certainty about whether the reduced Coronavirus Supplement will be extended into the New Year, and fear that there could be a ‘snap back’ to the woefully inadequate base rate of JobSeeker, we are particularly concerned for the wellbeing of Aboriginal children, young people, families and communities experiencing poverty. The Budget offers little to support the needs of Aboriginal communities despite the new and existing challenges presented and exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, and we are gravely concerned that poverty will be further entrenched.
Permanent, adequate increases to JobSeeker and other social security payments remain essential to the wellbeing of all Australians, and we call on the Government to clarify its position and lock in increases as soon as possible. The Cashless Debit Card social experiment must end, with the funds reinvested in placed-based community services that build, not harm, families and communities.
Treating Families Fairly is an alliance of child and family service organisations, peak bodies and academics advocating for federal policies that uphold the rights of children, and speaking out against policies that cause harm, with a particular focus on social security and welfare conditionality.