This report focuses on entrenched disadvantage in Australia. It identifies groups at higher risk of experiencing entrenched disadvantage, and the factors that contribute to families and their children receiving welfare support.
The Committee understands that many complex factors contribute to entrenched disadvantage. This report does not examine all the factors in detail, but draws on the evidence received by the Committee to identify the factors most likely to contribute to people receiving welfare support from one generation to the next.
The Committee recognises the resilience shown by many Australians experiencing entrenched disadvantage and acknowledges that many welfare recipients are doing an excellent job under difficult circumstances.
Research demonstrates a correlation between parents receiving welfare payments for significant periods of time and their children also receiving payments. However the Committee considers that there is no single explanation, factor, or mechanism that links the outcomes of one generation to that of the next.
Entrenched disadvantage and the programs that address it are complex and multi-faceted. The Committee identified the following factors that increase the risk of entrenched disadvantage:
geographic location (accessibility / remoteness);
Indigenous and single parent status;
suitability of available employment;
health and family welfare; and
availability of appropriate support systems.
The report sets out two over-arching principles the Committee considers are essential to deliver successful programs. These are:
place-based programs; and
A place-based approach reflects an understanding of the community, and local circumstances. Targeted, wrap-around support services are also essential, especially in engaging children and families where barriers to education and employment are complex.
The report highlights the importance of transition phases that occur in each person’s life. This is referred to as the life course approach. The report discusses the need to provide targeted and early intervention to support people through life changes in order to prevent entrenched disadvantage.
This report considers early intervention welfare programs should target the following phases of life:
pre-natal and parenthood;
education transitions including preschool, primary, secondary through to year 12, TAFE and Tertiary; and
The report comments on the merits of the Priority Investment Approach. The Priority Investment Approach to welfare uses data analysis to identify groups at particular risk of long-term welfare dependence. The report highlights how the Department of Social Services is implementing this approach.
This report emphasises the importance of housing, healthcare and financial literacy. It is the Committee’s view that although there are many potential target areas for welfare assistance, focusing on these areas will have a multiplying effect in preventing and addressing entrenched disadvantage.
The Committee considers there are several steps that can be taken to implement effective welfare programs. These are:
long-term flexible funding;
improved data and evaluation;
building community capacity; and
strategic government leadership.
The report makes sixteen recommendations in total which are listed at the front of the report.