Govt must balance cuts with investment in incentives

Could any of us actually live on $35 a day? When was the last time a few drinks out or even a grocery bill came to less than that amount?

But that figure is the amount of our current base welfare payment. The paltry sum is again in the headlines because the changes to the welfare system mean single parents with children over the age of eight will move from a parenting payment to a job seeking payment colloquially known as “the dole”.

In principle it sounds reasonable enough; the kids should be at school, the parent should not look upon these Government handouts as long term and resuming or starting work are beneficial not only to the parent but as a model for the children that follow.

Unfortunately the reality is a different matter. Rather than creating an incentive to find work, the economic adversity of the times has created a disincentive to stay at home. The difference is subtle but essentially the trade off in “tough economic times” has been forged in human misery.

Those who have to balance a family budget with $110 less per week are not facing a pleasant summer. For those whose age or ability means job prospects are few, it is an open-ended bleakness without a prospect of relief.

Those who enjoy righteous finger pointing at “dole bludgers” probably never had to suffer the indignity of collecting and living within its scant means. During a campaign to have the bottom line welfare payments raised from  $35 a day last year some politicians and community leaders endeavoured to do just that. The startling thing about this experiment was just how readily the budgetary restrictions cut people off not only from simple pleasures but from social activity, from community and even basic self-worth. These conditions come with a long term social price.

Rather than simply saving money on welfare payments The Courier believes the cuts need to be balanced with increased investment in the incentives to secure meaningful work. That means better resourcing training facilities, job seeking and preparation services.

The Federal Government should also look to educational and community programs that can help counter not only the restrictions of living on $35 a day, but the human isolation and hopelessness that can stem from it.

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