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Fixing Australia

Australia is broken. Democracy has holes in it, cracks in it, and it needs fixing. Since the 2004 Federal election we know that our government is not going to fix it. I think we need to do that fixing, and this blog is a start of getting some ideas together.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Got a disability? "Get over it, get a job", says Howard

Here we go folks - first it was refugees and asylum seekers, last week it was High Noon for Australian Indigenous people, and today Wild West Honest John targets people with a disability. To recap with a broad brush stroke: first, there were the Middle Classes and Upper Classes who had employ and the dollars, and the poor and the frail, including people on a disability, fell by the wayside. And we had the Poor Houses....

Then Social Policies came into the world, and created some semblance of justice for folks who had a disability - they would only receive a Disability Pension after an extensive assessment. It was some grace - and the notion was here to stay that those welfare measures were a right in a good society.

"Come in spinner", says Yi-haa (or Jihad?) John, and he puts one big bomb under all the Commonwealth Disability legislation.

Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London, is right after all then: "You can judge politicians by how they treat refugees; they do to them what they would do to everyone else if they could get away with it".

Govt pressures disability pensioners into work

ACB Radio - AM
Wednesday 24 November 2004 08:00:00
Reporter: Alexandra Kirk


ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government is considering a system of coercion and incentive to get disability pensioners off welfare and into the workforce. The scheme has been trialled for the past six months and the Government says it's a success.

There are almost 700, 000 Australians on disability pensions and the Government wants to encourage them to look for work or training.

From Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The disability support pension bill has now reached seven-and-a-half billion dollars a year and is still rising. In a bid to stem the burgeoning welfare expenditure, the Government spent $800,000 on a six month pilot program to ask more than 1,000 disability pensioners to sign up to job search and training programs.

The results are in and the Government says they show people with disabilities wanted to work, but weren't aware of existing support services in the Job Network and were fearful of the effect undertaking paid work would have on them continuing to receive the pension and associated concessions.

According to Peter Dutton, the minister for Workforce Participation, the trial was an unmitigated success, with just under a quarter getting a job. The rest were receiving support to become job ready.

PETER DUTTON: Well, they're very encouraging - we're very pleased with the fact that we now know that there are many people on a disability support pension who are willing and able to engage in work, and we need to provide them with assistance and every encouragement to try and find a job.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: What about assuaging their concerns that in taking up some work, they may lose the ability to go back on to the disability pension if they need to, and also maybe lose concessions?

PETER DUTTON: Well, that's a widely held misconception in the community and I think one of the main findings of this report is that if people are better educated, that are on a disability support pension, they realise that they don't automatically lose all of their entitlements.

In fact, many can work in a part time capacity until ... before they lose any of those entitlements. And for that reason, people think it's a good thing to be out looking for a job if they're able to.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So you'd like to expand the program now, to include all disability pensioners?

PETER DUTTON: Well, I think ... I think the Government's been very clear in our intention to support those people who are able to work to get back into work, and the growth in the disability support pension over the last 20 years has been staggering, and we need to make sure that the disability support pension is there for those people who have a disability, that need the support of Government.

The disability support pension shouldn't be seen as a way of life, of a way to opt out of work requirements, and I think the Australian taxpayer would also ask that the Government look very closely at this.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So how many of Australia's close to 700,000 disability pensioners do you think have a capacity to work, as shown in this trial?

PETER DUTTON: Well, we can't ... we can't quantify the number, but what we can say is that we know that there are a significant number of people that would be better off if they were in work. If they're able to work it's a better outcome, not just for them but for their families.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And when you say significant, what 100,000, 200,000, 300,000?

PETER DUTTON: Well, we just can't quantify it at this stage, but we know that they're - from the study in particular - that there are a number of people that are in a position where they would be able to work, at the very least in a part-time capacity.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Now, this trial was conducted on a voluntary basis, that is, people were asked to undertake job search and training programs. In expanding the idea, do you think that there should be an element of compulsion in it?

PETER DUTTON: Well, I think what we've shown is for the majority of people there is a willingness to participate to look for work. For those people that we think aren't there legitimately, then we need to try and adopt some coercion, and that's unfortunate in that minority of cases.

The vast majority of people are very legitimate about improving their own circumstances, and if they understand that they're not going to lose the majority of their benefits by way of the healthcare card, etcetera, if they realise that they can go into a part-time job, that they can improve their own circumstances, then we think that's a very good outcome.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And how would you introduce this element of coercion?

PETER DUTTON: Well, that's something that I'm keen to consult with the community on, and in particular with the disabilities sector on.

We want to make sure that those people who are most deserving of government assistance, that those who are most disabled enjoy every support from the government, and we want to make sure that we can work with the sector to see that we can quarantine and provide every assistance to those people, and we don't want the Labor Party going forward with a scare campaign from here.

It's quite the opposite, it's about helping people lift their self-esteem, about providing more for their families, and about improving their own circumstances in life.

We are determined to say to people that are able to work on a disability support pension, please go out and look for a job now, you will be surprised by the benefits that that brings to you, and we think that that's an overwhelming successful story for those people that are able to find a job.

ELEANOR HALL: Peter Dutton, the Minister for Workforce Participation, speaking to Alexandra Kirk.

http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2004/s1250250.htm

Fed Govt pushes for disabled to enter the workforce

ACB Radio - The World Today
Wednesday 24 November 2004 12:10:00
Reporter: Alexandra Kirk


PETER CAVE: First though to the national capital, where the Federal Government is raising the prospect of introducing coercion and incentives to get more of the ballooning number of people on the disability support pension looking for work again.

The Government says that the number of Australians on that pension is alarmingly high, costing taxpayers almost $7.5 billion a year, and that's still increasing.

It's released the findings of a six-month employment pilot program, but the results of the trial have also raised some significant challenges for the Government, as Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Between December last year and June this year the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations asked 1,100 disability support pensioners to take part in a voluntary job search and training pilot program, in other words, to look for work.

The results are now in - 36% of those who started customised assistance got a job or were in education, most of them in work.

The Workforce Participation Minister, Peter Dutton, says the results are very encouraging, showing disability support pensioners are keen to work but unaware of government support and unnecessarily concerned about paid work affecting their benefits and concessions.

PETER DUTTON: We're very pleased with the fact that we now know that there are many people on a disability support pension who are willing and able to engage in work, and we need to provide them with assistance and every encouragement to try and find a job.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And part of that "every encouragement" the Government wants to provide people on the disability support pension get off welfare and into work is the element of coercion.

PETER DUTTON: What we've shown is for the majority of people there is a willingness to participate and to look for work. For those people that we think aren't there legitimately, then we need to try and adopt some coercion, and that's unfortunate in that minority of cases.

The vast majority of people are very legitimate about improving their own circumstances, and if they understand that they're not going to lose the majority of their benefits by way of the healthcare card, etcetera, they realise that they can go into a part-time job, that they can improve their own circumstances, then we think that's a very good outcome.

We are determined to say to people that are able to work on a Disability Support Pension, please go out and look for a job now, you will be surprised with the benefits that that brings to you, and we think that that's an overwhelming successful story for those people that are able to find a job.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Labor's Penny Wong says it appears the trial was reasonably successful.

PENNY WONG: I think what that shows is that there are a great many people on DSB who want to work and who, when given the right support and opportunities, are able to do so.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: As for supporting Mr Dutton's coercion plan, Senator Wong is non-committal.

PENNY WONG: We're not opposed, in principle, to any obligation being introduced, provided it's not overly punitive and unfair, and to date that has been the case. We also believe it has to be matched by appropriate levels of support services and encouragement.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government is now considering how to apply its "work first, welfare second" approach to many more of Australia's almost 700,000 disability pensioners.

It's remaining silent for now, on whether it plans to reintroduce the disability support changes the Senate's already rejected twice, but it's clear the Coalition is back on the path of welfare reform.

In the interim, the Employment Department's provided the Government with some food for thought, gathering evidence of "significant disincentives and widespread ignorance inhibiting DSP recipients' take-up of work opportunities".

A major disincentive is the fear of losing the pension and/or concessions, if they take up paid work. They're concerned about their ability to either retain the DSP as a safety net or re-establish eligibility for the DSP if their health deteriorates.

It seems, too, DSP recipients don't understand the available work incentives, and many jobseekers had bad experiences, with job agencies reporting employer ignorance and discrimination.

Maurice Corcoran heads the newly formed Federation of Disability Organisations. He says if the Government is serious about increasing workforce participation, then it must get rid of the disincentives and boost employment opportunities.

MAURICE CORCORAN: So that people who really do want to move off the disability support pension are not disadvantaged and have real opportunities for paid and open employment.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And Maurice Corcoran says the Government must spell out its coercion idea so it doesn't add to the already existing high level of anxiety among disability pensioners.

MAURICE CORCORAN: We certainly have some concerns about those words and how they can be interpreted, and I think that's only going to make it even more fearful for some people, and for some parents who have got a son or daughter on a DSP who might be working part-time, and the assurances that a DSP and some of those benefits bring with them.

So, again, we need to find out the sort of facts and we need to find out what the Government has got in mind, so that we can make an informed decision or judgement on what our position will be in that.

PETER CAVE: Maurice Corcoran from the Federation of Disability Organisations.

http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2004/s1250419.htm

Latham slams Govt disability pension proposal

ABC ONLINE NEWS
Wednesday, November 24, 2004. 6:15pm (AEDT)


Opposition Leader Mark Latham has attacked plans to coerce disability pensioners into joining the workforce.

The Federal Government is considering a report that found many on disability pensions would work if they had more support.

Mr Latham says any use of force to get other less willing pensioners into work would be unfair.

"Its totally inappropriate for the Government to be talking about coercion when we're dealing with people with disabilities," he said.

"We've got to invest in them, get it right, for their training, skills, their work processes before they've got any decent chance to try and move from the DSP into the Australian workforce."

Minister for Workplace Participation Peter Dutton says if the plan goes ahead, only a small number would be "forced" into work.

A range of welfare groups say forcing people on disability pensions to take up work ignores the reasons why people have been put on pensions in the first place.

Andrew McCallum from the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) says there are many barriers preventing those on disability pensions from going back into the workforce.

"Take the case of someone with a mental illness - the episodic nature of that makes it quite difficult for those people to fit any particular compliance regime that may get put around them, because they are well one minute, they may be unwell the next," he said.

"That's very hard unless employers understand the actual complexities of those sorts of illnesses."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200411/s1250783.htm

1 Comments:

  • At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 7:05:00 PM, Blogger Lord Mite said…

    It has been shown that bullying in classrooms affects not just the students being bullied, but that every child in that room is scarred by it in some way.
    If we allow the most vulnerable groups in society to be bullied into working beyond their capacity and to the detriment of their other roles and obligations in life, with many pushed to their limits so that they completely break down or suicide, all of us will lose.
    Over time all of us will be working harder and harder, for less satisfaction, with less control over our working conditions, to the increased cost to our lives outside work, and with no time to think about or argue for the things that really matter in taking us into the 21st century. Things such as wisdom, resourcefulness, connectedness (with each other and with the earth); the ability and the initiative to make good decisions; the desire to turn our efforts towards things that need doing; and empathy.
    They came for the unemployed and the students. Now they?ve come for the pensioners.
    Who will be left when they come for you?

     

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