The Select Committee on Intergenerational Welfare Dependence was appointed on 24 May 2018 to inquire and report on matters relating to welfare dependence of families and outcomes for children.
Australia’s expenditure on welfare working age payments is approximately just over one-fifth of the Australian Government’s budget. This includes support for families and children, people with disability, carers, communities and vulnerable people, migrants and refugees. It also includes programs, services, benefits and payments to support Australians to find suitable employment.
The welfare system is intended to provide a safety net to support people who need assistance, for example income support while people look for work or to study for new employment opportunities.
There are however, places and groups of people who have a disproportionate need for welfare support, including successive generations of individual families. Entrenched disadvantage is accompanied by significantly worse health and wellbeing.
In order to improve the wellbeing, independence and workforce participation of Australians, new evidence-based programs are being trialled and evaluated. Reducing entrenched disadvantage will also decrease the economic cost of welfare programs.
Scope of the inquiry
In the early stages of this inquiry, the Committee recognised that time limitations would not allow for a comprehensive inquiry into all relevant matters, which include welfare assistance, disadvantage and social mobility.
The Committee published a Discussion Paper in August 2018, highlighting issues that it would consider as part of the inquiry, and invited submissions on these topics.
The topics included ‘scale, scope and definitions’ in terms of welfare and capacity to work, dependence, data, scale and families. Possible causes of intergenerational welfare dependence were raised, and potential approaches to addressing the issue.
The Committee agreed to consider a range of issues including the potential impact of the current design of Commonwealth assistance programs and local factors that might contribute to intergenerational welfare dependence, with a focus on identifying evidence-based interventions that have been effective in breaking cycles of disadvantage.
Following the Discussion Paper’s publication, the inquiry was advertised by media release on 20 August 2018, and submissions were invited from a range of stakeholders.
The Committee received 41 submissions which are listed in Appendix A.
During the course of this inquiry, the Committee held eight public hearings. A list of public hearings, witnesses and organisations is at Appendix B.
Chapter 2 addresses the complex causes of disadvantage, geographically focused intergenerational welfare dependence and particular risk groups. Chapter 2 also describes impacts of the welfare system on individuals and families, and on welfare service providers.
Chapter 3 examines the principles for successfully addressing intergenerational welfare dependence, elements of successful programs, and case studies where successful outcomes have been demonstrated.
Chapter 4 looks at the critical time periods for programs for addressing entrenched disadvantage, particularly early intervention at important transition periods throughout a person’s life. Chapter 4 also discusses critical focus areas such as housing, healthcare and financial literacy.
Chapter 5 describes the steps towards successfully implementing welfare programs that use the principles discussed in Chapter 3. Chapter 5 discusses possible improvements in funding arrangements, the role of data in informed decision making, coordination of funding and programs, community capacity building and strategic government leadership.