Dignity is the key to income support reforms

The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia believes the aim of  the income support system must be primarily to alleviate poverty and ensure that no one is denied the essentials of life. In its critique of the Interim Report on Welfare Reform submitted to the Department of Social Services on August 8, 2014, Vinnies argued the aim of the system should not be humiliation, nor control. In a media release, Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon called on the government to consult on a Jobs Plan for Australia to address the structural drivers of unemployment and for increased payment rates for Newstart. In the submission, Vinnies agreed with the report’s author, Patrick McClure, that reshaping the way we think about work and employment in Australia to make it more inclusive is the responsibility of all of us – including government, business, communities, and individuals. Vinnies strongly disagreed with the report’s suggestions of income management, and work for the dole.

Ninth Vinnies CEO Sleepout a success

On June 19th the Vinnies CEO Sleepout attracted 1050 participants from across Australian who helped raise in excess of $5.8 million in funds to help combat homelessness.  We thank all who made it possible: our ambassadors, sponsors, CEOs and generous donors who rose to the challenge. Vinnies also encourages more people to register for the 2015 Vinnies CEO Sleepout as this will mark the 10th anniversary since the inception of the event.

We can't afford to ignore it

Vinnies believes housing is a human right and we joined with other organisations in support of the National Homeless Persons’ Week (August 4 to 10). However, it was disconcerting to read this media release issued by the Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews on August 5, 2014 to mark the event, which refers to the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) due to expire in mid-2015. Instead of outlining additional policies to combat homelessness the Minister announced a broad review of programs. Vinnies has previously called on the federal government to commit to a longer term NPAH with the states.

Long term vision is required

National President, Anthony Thornton, has urged Minister Andrews to continue to work with the community sector by outlining a timeframe for the review of homelessness services and to ensure the final policy includes an increase in the supply of social housing and expenditure to end the scourge of homelessness. Homeless Persons’ Week (HPW) is coordinated by Homelessness Australia and funded in part by the Department of Social Services. This year’s theme ‘Homelessness: we can’t afford to ignore it’ highlights the toll homelessness takes on individuals and the wider community.

Gender and domestic violence

Vinnies abhors violence against anyone, in any situation, and sees any violence in the home, against an intimate partner, as a crime. However, it is notable that violence against an intimate partner does not affect everyone equally. Instead, the crime of domestic violence is strongly gendered. On July 29th Vinnies made a submission to the Inquiry into Domestic Violence in Australia being conducted by the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee. The submission outlined Vinnies support for strong investment in addressing the impact of domestic violence, which include support for women leaving violence, such as women’s refuges and shelters; education for men and boys about violence against women. In the submission Vinnies also argued we will not see real change until we as a society address the cause of domestic violence, such as, stereotypes and attitudes about gender’ and called on the government to commit to a national plan on gender equality, to build upon work that has commenced in the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. The reporting date for the Inquiry into Domestic Violence in Australia is October 27, 2014.

Racial vilification concerns ease

On August 5th the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, announced that proposed changes to the racial vilification laws, known as the 18C proposals, would be withdrawn. The announcement was made at a joint media conference with Attorney General George Brandis and followed discussions about the proposals in Cabinet. Vinnies was one of many organisations to make a submission to the Attorney General’s Department website before the deadline for submissions ended in late April. On June 12th Vinnies was also one of 120 organisations to have co-signed a letter urging the Federal Government to abandon racial vilification changes. Vinnies Research Officer, Rik Sutherland said had they been approved, the 18C proposals would have: “sent a dangerously regressive signal regarding the devaluing of multiculturalism, respect and diversity at a time when both the First Peoples and the most recently arrived asylum seekers face structural and historical injustice.”

Budget measures under scrutiny

Vinnies campaign to petition for a Fairer Budget continues with more than 1500 people signing the www.change.org/vinnies-budget petition so far. Vinnies has reinforced its opposition to Budget measures in its most recent submission to the Senate Inquiry into Budget Measures Nos. 1 and 2. The Bills seek to enact a range of measures; the majority of which Vinnies believes would reduce the value of cash payments that people receive from the government. The measures relate to changes in the Disability Support Pension, Work for the Dole programs and moves to implement a 26-week waiting period for income support for young adults. The submission states: ‘When many people with no income already having to pay for their rent, food, bills etc., it seems unconscionable that the government would also require them to spend money complying with strict obligations, all in the hope that in six months they may “earn” the meagre Newstart allowance.’ The reporting date for this Inquiry is September 4, 2014.

In the next Social Justice Update...

We will bring you all the news from National Op-Shop Week, as well as, more information on the  upcoming Inquiry into Income Inequality and new developments in the campaign for a Fairer Budget.