As described in Chapter 3, welfare programs and services across Australia have demonstrated successful outcomes when they are designed and implemented based on the principles of:
place-based initiatives, specific to the community’s needs, and
providing wrap-around services.
The Committee received evidence explaining how these principles can significantly improve outcomes for disadvantaged communities or cohorts, and can provide long-term solutions for reducing intergenerational welfare dependence.
The Committee also received evidence on a number of trials of place-based models (Chapter 3), highlighting the importance of features such as community leadership, effective coordination, access to data and evaluation.
This chapter reviews the evidence on how to successfully implement welfare programs. This is based on the principles in Chapter 3 and the focus areas in Chapter 4.
This chapter describes important ‘pre-conditions’ that influence the success of programs designed to address entrenched disadvantage, at the community and individual level.
This chapter discusses the importance of coordinated, longer-term funding arrangements, strategic direction and strong leadership from government, growing capacity and leadership within communities, and the importance of data in informed decision making and reviewing program outcomes.
Longer-term and more flexible funding agreements
Welfare and employment program service providers that receive government funding raised the issue of short-term funding cycles, and the impact the funding cycle has on being able to invest in long-term initiatives.
The Department of Social Services told the Committee that initiatives are often evaluated ‘very quickly and we don’t take account of [that] longer-term’ and ‘we often look for proxy measures … in the short-term rather than being able to have the time to look [at outcomes] in the long term’.
Save the Children Australia highlighted the importance of building trust in a community that receives a service. Save the Children Australia commented that efforts to successfully address intergenerational disadvantage benefit when services are delivered by organisations that are embedded within the community. This builds trust and effective working relationships with recipients and other support services. Ms Finlayson commented that ‘in some of these remote communities it really takes three to five years to build trust and for the communities to understand that you are committed and will stay there’. Save the Children stated that longer-term commitments are stymied by shorter-term government funding.
Several submissions spoke of the need for long-term commitments across government, community and business sectors, supported by appropriately long-term funding arrangements. Jesuit Social Services stated a long-term commitment of 20 years is required to address complex, entrenched disadvantage.
The Productivity Commission agreed that longer-term and less prescriptive contracts would mean greater stability for providers and for the people who receive the services, recognising the time it takes to build up trust and benefit from an investment.
Some submissions spoke of inflexibilities in funding arrangements that limit the type and nature of interventions service providers can offer. The Salvation Army stated:
More flexible funding arrangements with the scope to deliver innovative services targeted to meet local need are required. Developing more effective and coordinated approaches to support families will in turn reduce duplication, create shared vision and values, provide best value for money, and promote improved and more sustained outcomes for families.
Catholic Social Services Australia, commenting on prescriptive contracts and short-term funding, recommended an increase in the default contract lengths to seven years, with appropriate exceptions for trials, and adequate safeguards in case of failure by providers.
Social Ventures Australia, commenting on programs offered by SYC, reflected on the appropriateness of short-term metrics written into contracts for jobactive:
The outcome metrics that are built into those contracts are 13- and 26-week employment outcomes. I think SYC would say that that might not be the right metric for young people who are overly exposed to seasonal work and who often cycle in and out of jobs via what's called the sampling effect—figuring out what type of role might be suited them. They might have five different jobs per year, for example, but, if cumulatively over the year they're increasing the number of hours that they spend engaged, that's a great proxy for future life outcomes, and 12-week outcomes and 26-week outcomes might not be able to gauge the granularity of change over time.
CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes gave evidence about the potentially negative consequences of multiple contract providers not being locally based:
We used to be the only provider of social services in that part of the world because essentially there isn't a market. Now we have national organisations. We have organisations we have never heard of. Most of them are drive-in drive-out. Unfortunately, it seems that the government doesn't look at that when assessing tenders. Look at Wilcannia. There are 66 services and 65 of them are drive-in drive-out. We are the only organisation that has an office in that town. We are not even funded to have an office; it is just part of our values that we have a community hub. But it is actually really hard for us to keep it together because there is no funding. I can understand that government wants the best bang for their buck. But sometimes some of the decisions don't make sense. They don't know the local communities and they don't take things into account.
The Committee heard that competitive tender processes for funding support services sometimes favour larger organisations over grassroots organisations ‘because of their economies of scale, professional backing’.
The Committee recognises the complexities associated with funding arrangements. There must be a balance between ensuring accountability and effective use of resources, and allowing flexibility that can result in successful program outcomes.
The Committee heard that inflexible funding can relate to the timing of programs (roll out and reporting), scope of program activities, mode of delivery of programs, and evaluation timeframes. Inflexible arrangements can limit service provider ability to be innovative in their service delivery.
Shorter-term funding contracts (often described as less than five years) and project cycles were consistently identified as limiting the ability of service providers to make long term commitments. The Committee recognises this is significant, and considers that short-term funding has a detrimental impact on the quality of welfare programs. The Committee considers that creating intergenerational change can require planning and implementation on ‘intergenerational time frames’ in order to support families through key transition periods (20+ years).
The Committee also noted the concerns of some witnesses over funding criteria that potentially (inadvertently) favour larger organisations at the expense of smaller, locally connected service providers. The Committee recognises the important role of locally connected organisations in successful delivery of welfare programs, and the benefits of engaging these organisations.
The Committee recommends that funding arrangements for welfare-related programs are reviewed, with a view to avoiding short-term funding cycles. Three to five year agreements, with annual extensions subject to meeting agreed performance measures, would assist with funding certainty, while ensuring progress and satisfactory outcomes are achieved.
The Committee recommends that funding agencies work with service providers to ensure accountability for expenditure of public funding in a way that allows programs to be flexible and responsive to local conditions.
Data and evaluation
Accurate data is required to determine where intergenerational welfare dependence occurs, priority areas for action and measuring the outcomes of programs.
Data that is relevant to understanding intergenerational welfare dependence, and informing programs with place-based, wrap around, dimensions include:
demographics of welfare recipients;
employment, housing and educational status;
health and wellbeing data; and
interactions with child protection and the justice system.
Longitudinal data can show how a person, cohort (group with similar characteristics or circumstances), or community progress or change over time.
The Committee received evidence highlighting the importance of comprehensive data relating to welfare and other payments and programs. Tracking data and evaluation outcomes were described as necessary to allow informed decision making, measuring progress and outcomes, and demonstrating accountability.
Ms Finlayson from Save the Children Australia described three layers of data used by that organisation to measure long term change:
program [evaluation] data
long-term data such as publicly available health, education and early childhood data to analyse whether programs are making a difference that is sustainable over periods of time.
Taylor Fry identified challenges in the Australian context (in a comparison with New Zealand) in terms of data linkage:
… linkage projects … in Australia tend to be piecemeal … and slow … approvals, including ethics applications and linkage, mean that six months to a year is not uncommon before a project can start … Commonwealth data can only be linked by one of the five authorised linkage authorities, and restrictions are often significant. For instance, it is generally difficult for state governments to access Commonwealth data or link it to their services.
The Joint Departmental Submission described the Australian Government’s work on developing evidence, through the Data Integration Partnership for Australia, which ‘provides funding and an overarching framework across … data assets, data integration and analytics units, aimed at addressing challenges to achieve better national outcomes through better policies and programs’.
The Joint Departmental Submission outlined the longitudinal studies supported and funded by the Australian Government, including:
the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey;
the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC);
the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC);
Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY); and
Building a New Life in Australia (BNLA).
Data from the surveys can be used to track the effects of policy by identifying trends or significant changes to individual or cohort progress or circumstances in relation to changes in welfare programs and policy.
The Australian Government also supports the triennial Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) program that collects developmental data on children in their first year of school, potentially helping to inform how ‘long-term welfare dependency affects children’s developmental vulnerability and readiness for school’.
Using data to inform decision making: the Priority Investment Approach
The Department of Social Services (DSS) described the Priority Investment Approach (PIA) as a ‘whole of population actuarial microsimulation model that forecasts future lifetime costs of the Australian welfare system’. That is, a national-scale, long term costing of welfare programs. The PIA uses data to estimate and compare predicted welfare costs in different scenarios, such as maintaining current payments or implementing programs to increase employment in certain groups.
The PIA methodology begins with an actuarial valuation to estimate the ‘future liability’ of current income support claims. That is, a calculation of the cost of those people continuing to receive welfare payments and assistance over their lifetime. The PIA aims to reduce welfare costs by introducing targeted interventions to help people reduce their need for welfare payments. Interventions are prioritised based on their projected return on investment (savings relative to costs).
The transition to an investment approach to welfare programs was one recommendation in a review of Australia’s welfare system, A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes (the McClure Review) in 2015. An investment approach could reduce future costs associated with long-term income support dependence by targeting investment to initiatives that will build self-reliance.
Following the McClure Review, DSS has commissioned three actuarial valuation and analysis reports: the Baseline Valuation Report, 2016, and 2017 Valuations.
The 2017 Valuation provides insights into how the current Australian population is likely to use welfare into the future, and quantifies the long term financial commitments associated with the current welfare system. The analysis identified:
factors driving lifetime cost and annual expenditures
changes to cost over time
the impact of changes to the system
how different groups of people contribute to overall cost, and
factors that explain different levels of welfare payment utilisation.
The Joint Departmental Submission stated that the:
PIA allows the identification of particular cohorts at risk of long-term welfare receipt. Cohorts identified to date include: young people moving from study directly to employment payments, young parents, young carers, Newstart Allowance recipients aged 50 years and over, migrants and refugees on working age income support, working age carers on Carer Payment, and at-risk young people receiving income support.
The Priority Investment Approach (PIA) uses 17 years’ worth of social security and other population data, and economic data and forecasts, to allow projections showing how particular groups of people are likely to interact with the social security system over their future lifetime based on the current system settings.
DSS acknowledged that limitations on access to data is affecting the Department’s ability to introduce targeted initiatives through a Priority Investment Approach:
… we are actively working with all the departments … to see how we can bring these things together to get a more granular picture of individuals as they transition through the system.
DSS advised the Committee that enhancements to PIA modelling will include ‘new data variables, such as Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) in 2018 … [and] the potential addition of new data sources, such as data from other Commonwealth or state governments using linked data sources currently under-development’.
Recent analysis from the PIA suggests an increased likelihood of children to end up requiring welfare support if their parents received welfare for significant periods of time during their childhood. The analysis includes:
… an “intergenerational welfare” variable, which identifies the proportion of a recipient’s childhood (up to the age of 15 years) spent in the care of a parent receiving income support [and] … shows young people aged 22 to 24 years whose parents or guardians received income support payments for over 80 per cent of their childhood are 2.9 times more likely to be on income support payments today, compared to those with no parental income support history.
Taylor Fry reported that in New Zealand, a combination of welfare reforms and Priority Investment Approach, including a targeted approach focusing on assisting specific cohorts or communities, has been ‘generally successful in reducing long-term welfare costs’.
DSS is working with other agencies to establish protocols, regulatory frameworks and data infrastructure to allow appropriate data sharing and analysis. DSS is working through the Data Integration Partnership for Australia (DIPA) ‘to maximise the use and value of the Government’s data assets … [and] create new insights into important and complex policy questions’. The PIA analysis currently uses 17 years of data.
Further to the DIPA, the National Data Commissioner ‘will provide oversight and regulation of Australia’s new national data sharing and release framework, including monitoring and reporting on the operation of the framework and enforcing the accompanying legislation’.
Examples of Priority Investment Approach interventions
The Australian Government is working towards a more targeted approach, describing the Try, Test and Learn (TTL) Fund as ‘trialling new or innovative approaches to assist some of the most vulnerable in society into stable, sustainable employment’, using insights from the PIA.
The Life Course Centre described the TTL as ‘an ongoing commitment to co-designing, developing, improving and learning from innovative ideas about how to address issues of disadvantage and welfare dependency … an example of providing the evidence-based evaluations essential for effective policy design and implementation … preferably over long periods to assess potential “fade out” effects’.
The SYC Sticking Together Project also targets young people experiencing disadvantage. SYC explained that in their experience:
… multi-faceted support is crucial. In addition to employment-related skills, support is provided by the coach in non-vocational skills development and overcoming other barriers to employment … including home, health and relationship challenges. Support is provided when the young person is in work and during periods of unemployment. Support is also provided to employers to help them manage the employment relationship and ‘stick with’ the young person.
SYC’s Sticking Together Project involves intensive coaching with participants and their employer(s) over a 60-week period. The timeframe is based on the NZ Benefit System Performance Report, which identified 14 months as the optimal time to work with vulnerable people to help them move away from the welfare system. The pilot project ‘supported 100 young people experiencing disadvantage, who on average had been unemployed for over two years … 66 per cent of young people who completed the pilot are now completely of welfare benefits’.
Measuring program success
Ms Finlayson, Save the Children Australia, described the benefit of using data to evaluate programs to assess whether progress is being made over time:
… how [to] use publicly available data over a period of years to see if the work … is indeed shifting the needle for certain cohorts that we're working with … We're looking at health data, education data and early childhood data such as AEDC so that we can see if the changes that we think we are making are sustainable over periods of time … If we really want to make a difference for these children and young people, how do you actually ensure that whatever is funded is contributing to shifting the needle over a long period of time and that allocation is made to ensure that that evaluation can actually take place?
The importance of suitable timeframes for evaluation of initiatives, allowing enough time for program outcomes to be demonstrated was recognised in conjunction the issue of longer term funding cycles (see also 5.8 and 5.14).
The Life Course Centre described the important role of comprehensive longitudinal data in developing reliable evidence on disadvantage and the impact of welfare programs:
To better understand intergenerational welfare dependence requires linked longitudinal administrative data that combines State and Commonwealth data. Analyses of these data is critical if we are to move beyond anecdotal evidence to understand the causes and consequences of disadvantage, and develop effective interventions to address it … [T]he establishment of the National Data Commission is an important step in this direction. We strongly encourage governments to continue cooperating and collaborating to provide integrated data infrastructure across states and jurisdictions that enable high quality analyses of intergenerational welfare dependence and policy solutions
In Australia, more extensive actuarial analysis will be possible when longer term data series are available, enabling measurement of intergenerational benefit receipt. Taylor Fry pointed out that ‘longitudinal welfare data series in New Zealand extends back to 1993, whereas the equivalent data extends to 2001 in Australia … [the NZ data] makes it easier to measure … intergenerational benefit receipt, since it is possible to calculate who had parental benefit receipt for a large portion of the current beneficiary population’.
The Department of Social Services has begun implementing the priority investment approach to welfare. This approach relies on data analysis to identify groups at particular risk of long-term welfare dependence, and then focuses interventions to address their specific challenges.
The Priority Investment Approach aligns with the principles identified in Chapter 3 – allowing for targeted, place-based initiatives that would address entrenched disadvantage through co-designed, inter-generational, wrap around services.
The Committee recognises the value of this approach, and supports the ongoing work of departments to enable data consolidation and sharing to allow more detailed analysis, and the establishment of the office of the National Data Commissioner.
The Committee understands that Australia’s longitudinal surveys are comprehensive, but datasets are not yet sufficiently long-term to inform analysis of intergenerational welfare trends.
The Committee believes that as trials of this approach mature, it will be possible to identify a series of points in the life of a person where if certain benchmarks are not being met, a range of interventions are automatically offered, in advance of any crisis point being reached.
The Committee agrees the PIA focus should be on achieving successful outcomes for people experiencing disadvantage, including those receiving welfare over long periods, in addition to reducing future welfare funding liabilities.
The Committee recommends the continuation of comprehensive longitudinal data collection by state, territory and Australian Governments, to enable informed decision making on the Priority Investment Approach.
Success of the Priority Investment Approach should be measured not just by reductions in welfare expenditure, but also by improved outcomes for welfare recipients.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government continue to streamline data sharing protocols and arrangements with states and territories.
The Committee recommends that funding agreements with social service providers build in meaningful requirements for program evaluations or progress reports, and avoid imposing evaluation requirements that result in ‘proxy’ measures being reported to meet administrative timeframes.
The Committee notes the complexity of Australia’s funding programs, arrangements and coordination challenges. This was demonstrated by thirteen agencies contributing to a Joint Departmental submission, with each agency having responsibility for some aspect of welfare programs or payments:
The Australian Government has a large number of payments and programs in place to support families to find pathways out of intergenerational welfare dependence and broader disadvantage. These payments and programs are designed to break the cycles of disadvantage, to collect the evidence on what works, and to support families and communities to build the opportunity, human capital (education and health), and capability (the skills and access to resources) to change children’s and families’ outcome trajectories and increase their capacity for self-reliance.
As outlined in the Committee’s Discussion Paper, the administrative category ‘social security and welfare’ is used for budget papers. In 2016-17, spending in this category represented 35 per cent of the Australian Government’s expenses. In dollar terms this was around $158.6 billion in 2016-17, and forecast to grow to $191.8 billion by 2019-20. This expenditure includes income support payments (pensions and allowances, including Newstart), family payments, paid parental leave pay, child care fee assistance, aged care services, disability services, payments and services for veterans and their dependents.
The Department for Jobs and Small Business (DJSB) is responsible for a large number of employment programs and financial incentives throughout Australia, such as Jobactive, ParentsNext and the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS).
The NEIS provides assistance to help people create their own job, with the support of Entrepreneurship Facilitators. The DJSB has allocated an additional $17.7 million for new Entrepreneurship Facilitators in 20 additional locations (from January 2019).
The Committee received evidence on the need to coordinate funding and welfare related programs from all levels of government at the community level. Some submissions provided details of communities and individuals facing multiple funding sources, primary contact people and overlapping services or conditions.
Further issues raised were: the often siloed nature of assistance, a lack of coordination between jurisdictions, and sometimes contradictory program aims and outcomes, affecting program delivery and ability of people to access assistance.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies stated:
These findings about the challenges for families with complex needs being able to access the support they need echo numerous other reports which highlight fragmented and siloed service systems. Australia’s current service systems involve multiple jurisdictions and levels of government, with services for families being delivered through health, education and human services portfolios. However, research and other reviews consistently show that the current systems are characterised by a fragmented approach with little coordination and a poor understanding of what is most effective.
Logan Together testified:
So we're already spending the money, but it is spent in this chaotic meteor shower of hundreds of different interventions from different levels of government, different government departments, different programs within departments within governments, and different streams within programs within departments of government. We did a count, and we can find 105 child and family investments in Logan that we could count, and it's almost certainly an undercount.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence also raised the issue, stating:
The interplay of federal, state and local government efforts, and the disconnect between Early Childhood Education and Care, child and family services, employment policies and programs, and place-based measures create a fragmented landscape that lacks an effective mechanism to connect families with the supports they need. In some instances this dissonance entrenches disadvantage (eg the Early Childhood Education & Care activities test is reducing access to early learning for vulnerable children who have the most to gain; low social security payment rates are plunging families into poverty; increasing welfare conditionality is marginalising some families or missing opportunities to support others (eg Parents Next is a limited offering).
Logan Together characterised the current approach as the ‘spray and pray’ approach:
You spray human services out there, and you pray it's made a difference. We know it doesn't. We know those sorts of highly pixilated, atomized, random acts of kindness into the community are actually pretty good at resolving people's immediate crisis issues. They are really lousy at stitching together into a system that grows kids up well.
The consequence is duplication of services and a lack of funding to focus on prevention rather than crisis relief:
One lady had 26 service interventions active in her life on the day someone checked, including five that thought they were the case coordination agency.
The complexity and interdependency of the challenges that confront disadvantaged children and young people means more effective collaboration between all stakeholders is critical. However, whilst this is well known, effective collaboration is extremely difficult to execute in practice owing to a host of intra- and inter-organisational factors such as competing priorities, funding, ways of working and IT and data systems, compounded by the number of stakeholders involved in a child’s journey to adulthood.
Logan Together noted coordination is key to getting things done:
We haven't really put into the field a single new idea or certainly not an idea that we haven't known for about 40 years. A little bit of the brain science is about 10 years old. That's about the only new stuff. But we've basically known what we're trying to do for about 40 years. What we haven't done as a society is do it for kids who live in some parts of cities like mine, and that's the project. The project is getting it done. It's not a knowing problem; it's very much a doing problem.
The Committee recognises the complexity of current arrangements and large number of agencies delivering and funding Australia’s welfare programs.
The Committee acknowledges that a significant amount of funding is spent on human services by all levels of government, and recognises that fragmented services, programs and payments can contribute to poor outcomes in some circumstances. The Committee commends the Department of Social Services for actively working to address this issue.
The Committee was pleased to hear about efforts to coordinate welfare programs and services. The Committee also noted the opportunity to expand coordination efforts, ensure resources are used efficiently, establish a shared vision and ‘plan’ for each community, and grow community engagement and effective cooperation between governments, service providers and community organisations.
The Committee supports monitoring at the federal level to identify the best opportunities to coordinate programs across departments, and recognises that significant work is required to coordinate services between levels of government.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government improve its coordination with state and local programs, to ensure expenditure achieves the best possible outcomes, and avoids duplication.
Building community capacity
The Committee received evidence of various community-based initiatives and models for addressing intergenerational welfare dependence. Leadership from within a community is important for mobilising support, maintaining momentum for change, and growing community capacity and resilience over time.
Fostering and drawing on local leadership was described by a number of inquiry participants as an important contributor to successfully overcoming entrenched disadvantage.
Save the Children Australia identified the importance of community leadership and support for programs: ‘[it] really does require a community-led approach, because you need the whole community to actually be behind some form of change and a purpose’.
Save the Children further described the importance of community leadership in the context of their work with Indigenous communities: ‘we would only go into a community after being asked by community members. We’re very strong on self-determination for communities … as an outsider you can’t actually know everything. Recruiting from community is our attempt to better understand what is actually happening … the history and aspirations of community leaders’.
Co-design was recognised throughout this inquiry as one of the principles shaping successful intergenerational welfare dependence initiatives. Community participation in program design is an important element of building capacity and growing local commitment to overcoming disadvantage.
Locally focused and driven programs are important in addressing concentrated local disadvantage. The Brotherhood of St Laurence described the correlation of child vulnerability with ‘place-based disadvantage … children in the most disadvantaged areas [are] more than four times as likely to be developmentally vulnerable as [those] in the least disadvantaged areas’.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence specifically recommended ‘interventions should be matched to community readiness and designed to strengthen community capacity to mobilise for change’.
Associate Professor Philip Mendes suggested that co-design processes include locally focused and driven actions ‘informed by community development principles … engaging with [affected] community members … and ensuring that the local community plays a key role in both defining the causes of the problem, and identifying potential policy solutions’. This should also involve collaboration between affected individuals and non-government services that currently work with the disadvantaged groups.
Logan Together identified eight important features of successful place-based, life course models for addressing entrenched poverty, disadvantage and welfare dependency:
Take a long-term, whole-of-population approach at the place level.
Identify high-leverage change strategies across the health, education, social services sectors and the community itself.
Embed these strategies in an inter-generational, life-course or “cradle to career” framework that focuses on key phases in human development from birth (indeed pregnancy) forward.
Create strategic coordination capability (a Backbone Team) and local level governance and collaboration arrangements (collective impact approaches) to deliver the strategies.
Include local people and local leaders in all aspects of planning and decision making.
Focus on capability building as well as service delivery.
Establish an authorising environment that allows local initiatives to be quickly supported and responded to by very senior stakeholders where required.
Coordinate investment and reform systems to support roll out.
The Cape York Partnership demonstrates principles of community-determined local development agendas, ‘including an unwavering focus on rebuilding social norms, lifting education outcomes, and engagement with the real economy’. The Cape York Partnership further described its ‘structured Opportunity System’ where people would be guaranteed opportunities in return for assuming welfare reform responsibilities and obligations … the government will provide access to opportunity, and the individual and family will agree to live under those commitments’.
The Committee supports initiatives that address entrenched disadvantage through growing local leadership capacity, and incorporate community input into the program design including priority setting, action planning, and implementation.
Community capacity building, through fostering leadership and opportunities to contribute to programs is important to the principle of co-design, and generates multiple broader benefits, such as building community self-sufficiency, resilience, improving social cohesion, participation and sense of wellbeing.
In promoting place-based approaches, the Committee cautions against policy and contracting approaches that eschew existing local grassroots organisations in favour of larger outside contractors whose services are considered narrowly to be better value for money. Innovative approaches such as Social Venture partnerships could be considered as a means of building capacity in local organisations while delivering programs locally.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government supports programs that build local leadership capacity, and incorporate local input in identifying and implementing solutions to entrenched disadvantage.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government adopt a set of principles similar to those suggested by Logan Together for addressing entrenched poverty, disadvantage and welfare dependency.
Strategic government leadership
The Australian Government needs to use an evidence-based, long-term, strategic and responsive approach to addressing and overcoming intergenerational welfare dependence.
Successful services and programs improve the quality of life and opportunities for Australian people, and can significantly reduce the burden of welfare expenditure. The Australian Government can provide leadership on the direction, goals, priorities and parameters for programs to address intergenerational welfare dependence.
Central leadership can enable and guide programs that reduce intergenerational welfare dependence, while ensuring they are delivered effectively. The Committee received evidence including examples of partnerships between state and local government and organisations from other sectors (charity, not-for-profit or private businesses).
‘Top-down’ leadership can set criteria for funding and programs and assist government and community stakeholders with coordination and objective-setting. National-level leadership can provide strategic direction, including identifying and funding national priority projects.
Anglicare Australia described their preference for the Australian Government’s role to identify and analyse successful initiatives and how key elements could be transferred, while recognising local differences and personal complexities ‘promoting the information … but not expecting that it’s lifted off the shelf … enabling and designing quite complicated conversations about what has worked and why … and then cross-fertilising those ideas’.
The Australian Government’s strategic leadership role includes the responsibility to ensure the adequacy of welfare support payments, so they do not result in further entrenched disadvantage.
A significant number of inquiry participants from organisations in the welfare sector, individuals and their representatives advocated for leadership from the Australian Government in reviewing payments and conditions associated with the Newstart allowance (also discussed in Chapter 2). In particular, the policy of moving single parents to Newstart payments once their youngest child turns eight is described as causing significant hardship and additional circumstances of poverty and disadvantage.
The Committee greatly appreciates the willingness of individual witnesses to share details of difficult personal circumstances associated with disadvantage, the level of welfare payments, and the impact various conditions associated with different welfare programs have had on the wellbeing and prospects of themselves and their families.
Although the majority of people will use welfare payments for a short period of time as they quickly secure employment, a small number experience entrenched disadvantage and will be reliant on welfare payments for longer periods of time.
The Committee acknowledges the adage that ‘the best form of welfare is a job’, but recognises there are sometimes barriers to people taking up suitable available jobs locally or further afield. Nevertheless, there is good evidence that programs can assist both unemployed people and employers fill available positions, or develop sustainable business opportunities.
The Committee received significant evidence about poverty leading to entrenched disadvantage. Many inquiry participants explained the poverty experienced as a result of welfare payments and associated limitations they experienced in attempting to participate in the jobseeker market. In particular, the policy of moving single parents to the lower-rate Newstart allowance when the youngest child turns eight, is reported to be creating financial crisis for single parents (and their children) who have not yet been successful in finding suitable work.
The Committee recognises that the Australian Government can add value throughout the life of welfare programs by monitoring progress towards achieving objectives, through effective and timely evaluation and reporting.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government provides strategic leadership of welfare programs, based on national priorities and knowledge of best practice approaches.
The Committee recommends the Australian Government review the effects of government policy, including the adequacy of payments, on young people and single parent families in the 46th Parliament.
The Australian Government consider changing the point at which single parents move to Newstart Allowance; from when their youngest child turns eight to when their youngest child turns twelve. This should be in conjunction with continued efforts to increase the participation of parents in the workforce.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government encourage employers to investigate opportunities associated with social investment organisations; including encouraging employers to make operational changes that would facilitate opportunities for single parents to enter the workforce, such as part-time or job-sharing arrangements.