Thursday, 20 March 2008

Welfare Payment Regulation - Will it Work?

The Rudd government is to introduce a a plastic debit card that will control how welfare recipients spend their payments. The card is to stop drug addicts, gamblers, alcoholics and neglectful parents spending their welfare payments on drugs, gambling, alcohol and neglecting. Very good.

We have to make sure payments are spent for the benefit of the child and just as importantly that they are not spent on things that act to hurt children such as drugs or alcohol
-Families and Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin

A good idea like this can only work if managed properly. There is no doubt that some families are effected greatly by negligent parents and controlling the purse strings might direct money to where it is needed most. Parents who are addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling and let their children suffer as a consequence is a problem that needs addressing and I congratulate the government for acting on it. Issues of women who have children just for the baby bonus or men who take the bonus and flee is being addressed as well. Like all control tactics though with the purpose to protect people, there are major issues that are not usually addressed. This should be a priority before any scheme is implemented.

Who decides that parents are neglectful or cannot manage their drug use, alcohol or gambling?
Department of Community Service workers(DOCS) will have the power via Centrelink to apply restrictions on welfare payments to whoever they choose. Without a proper review process, it could give DOCS workers some extraordinary power. What if a DOCS worker has a dislike for someone or personally disagrees with their parenting techniques? What about racists or ultra religious workers? Will they force this new control on those who maybe smoke grass occasionally? Will a religious DOCS worker who is anti-alcohol make judgement on parents who drink? What if the DOCS misinterprets a situation? Too many 'Ifs' for my liking unless there is an easy way to settle disputes.

The other obvious downfall is the ability to falsely report abuse to The Department of Community Service. A vendetta between families could encourage a few phone calls to The Department of Community Service and the suspicion has already been aroused. With so much emphasis on 'protecting children', they will be bound to apply the welfare restrictions and investigate more fully at a later date.

Vouchers and goods will be exchanged for cash less than the face value.
For those parents who do have a problem and have their payments regulated, it simply will not fix the underlying problem. Addiction is a powerful incentive to do whatever it takes to squash the craving. Vouchers will simply become another currency but with less face value and this means even less money for an already struggling family. Cash for goods at hockshops will become even more prevalent and strip the total of their payments to a fraction of what they previously had. The opportunity to take advantage of those in need will just increase and impoverish those targeted even more.

The number of outlets that accept the cards/vouchers will be limited and what items are allowed to be purchased?.
Those on welfare payments live below the official poverty line. Trying to balance a small payment in a highly commercialised world built for those paid a wage is tricky and something we can't fathom. Collective savings, multi-family purchasing, sharing of financial burdens between relatives is common for welfare recipients and that requires cash. It also requires flexibility to seek out bargains and used goods that this system will make near impossible.

Will it be extended to all welfare recipients?
This is the biggest issue. Is the proposed system a precursor for total welfare regulation and 'protecting children' is just the door opener? Before he lost the election, I repeat, before he lost the election, John Howard had plans already in motion for payment regulation on all welfare recipients and his model was scary. The plan was to regulate the payments of anyone with a drug conviction for certain drugs or anyone they deemed 'a problem', whether they were a parent, single or part of a childless family.

There are plenty of issues to sort out but as with all socially conservative governments, controlling the riff raff that spoils the landscape is better dealt with first and any problems are addressed later. I see the current climate of drug/alcohol propaganda through fear mongering taking precedence over the actually well being of families with drug/alcohol problems. If these people have a problem with an addiction that is expensive to maintain, forcing more financial hardship will not magically fix the problem. Controlling welfare payments will make addicts even more desperate by taking away their only source of income and is never going to suddenly cure their medical condition. It will though lead to more unnecessary crime ... possibly the only outcome that is guaranteed.

The controls on welfare spending had to be accompanied by more spending on alcohol rehab programs, parenting programs and counselling. There were 26,000 people on waiting lists for programs that dealt with the root causes of dysfunction
-Welfare Rights spokesman Michael Raper

The problem is that these politicians are detached from how welfare families manage their lives and instead listen to the hysterical MSM. As we often see, several ultra conservative, self proclaimed pundits are given a platform for their radical views in certain publications that stir up a minority of the public. and somehow it becomes front page news. This publicity is going to override any real investigation into the negative effects of welfare payment regulation. Fixing the root of these problems should be addressed properly first and then maybe this type of welfare regulation wouldn't be such a big issue.

We expect this to be used as a last resort in very limited circumstances
-Welfare Rights spokesman Michael Raper

1 comment:

spinub said...

Well alot of ppl get put in this situation by being a disposable work, eg If you worked for Filcon Saftey Group