Do you know about the changes to Welfare?

DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE CHANGES TO WELFARE?

Assembly for Dignity/Dissenterlink is a network of disgruntled workers, students, unemployed, people on benefits and activists which formed to understand and demystify the welfare changes, spread that information and open space to organise against them.

Recently the Federal Government passed the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2010. This bill is a massive change to the provision of welfare in Australia and represents an attack on the conditions and dignity of us all who are on benefits and the rest of us more broadly. This will make life for those on benefits increasingly difficult and intensify the powers of the state to interfere in the minutiae of people’s lives. But why is this happening, especially when unemployment is at historic lows?

So far we have produced a leaflet and short video detailing the changes, as well as a  transcript of one of our public forums. We also regularly hold info-stalls out the front of Centrelink offices.

LEAFLETS AND LITERATURE

1. Forum Transcript
After a series of homely stalls out the front of Centrelink offices we released a call-out for a
forum to discuss the changes. What follows is the transcript from this initial forum (Held at Newfarm Neighbourhood Centre) as well as a discussion piece – “Putting the welfare changes into perspective.” Click here to Download it

2. Leaflet – Do you know about the changes to welfare?
Our simple two page leaflet detailing the changes in brief.
Click here to download it

3. Film
Click here to Download

4. Analysis: The Federal Budget, Changes to Welfare and the Labour-Crisis
Click here to Download

                                              Do you know about the changes to welfare?

Despite receiving very little media attention the conditions for those on welfare are about to be made a lot tougher and oppressive. Whilst these changes have been introduced by the Federal Labour Government they are fully supported by both the Liberal and National Coalition. Both are committed to making the lives of those on welfare harder. So what are these changes?

In 2010 the Federal Government passed the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2010. This legislation means that welfare quarantining, which was first applied specifically to Aboriginal people as part of the bogus Northern Territory Intervention, can now be applied anywhere in Australia. All the Federal Government needs to do is declare a region subject to quarantining and it will affect all the people on welfare living there. What happens is that a certain percentage of the money that you get as a payment can only be spent using a Basics Card (like a debit/credit card) at certain shops and on certain things.

There are four categories that this will be applied to:

1. long term unemployed (those who have been on payments for 24 months+)

2. disengaged youth (those under the age of 25 who have been on payments 12months+); –

3. those who are declared ‘vulnerable by a Centrelink social worker (who makes a value judgement on your personal behaviour)

and

4. Those referred by Child Safety authorities.

Those under the first two categories will have 50% of their payment quarantined, those in the last two categories will have 70% of their payment quarantined. 100% of all one off payments will be quarantined (Centrelink loans, advances etc).

In the Federal Budget it was announced that quarantining will be rolled out to five new locations ( it is already in full effect for all of the NT) these locations are: Bankstown (NSW), Logan (QLD), Rockhampton (QLD), Playford (SA) and Shepparton (VIC). Only categories 3 and 4 will be implemented, however we expect that in the future more areas will have welfare quarantining and all the categories will be used.

Tougher Penalties

Recently the government tabled the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Job Seeker Compliance) Bill 2011. If this legislation is passed it will toughen the penalties for missing any appointment with Any employment service provider (eg: Sarina Russo). If you miss an appointment your welfare payment will be suspended straight away. If you agree to reschedule the appointment your payment will be restored and back paid. However if you miss this next appointment your payment will be suspended again, and you will lose payment for each day from the second missed appointment until you attend a rescheduled appointment. There is no back payment for these missed payments.

Changes to Youth Allowance.

The cut off age for Youth Allowance will be raised to 22. “Earn or Learn” provisions will be applied to everyone on this payment. That means if you are on Youth Allowance and if you haven’t completed year 12 and are not working or in education you could be breached.

Changes to Disability Support Pension (DSP).

If you are on the DSP and are assessed as being able to work 8 hours or more then you will have to have a ‘participation plan’ developed for you. This means you will need to attended employment services meetings, undertake training, volunteering or rehabilitation. Also the criteria for being put on the DSP are being restricted.

Intensive Obligations for the Long Term Unemployed.

If you have spent two years in employment services then you will be required to undergo “intensive obligations”. This includes having to do 2 days of work experience a week for 11 months a year.

Participation Plans for Parents.

New Particpation plans for teenage parents mean that they will have to finish year 12 or equivalent and those families that have kids under six (and neither parent is employed) will also have to make and stick to participation plans. The details of all this are scarce but it doesn’t look good.

What is going on?

Why is this happening? Well we all know that the government often likes to take a free kick at the poor but there are deeper reasons. The world economic situation is very precarious but Australia is doing well by comparison. This is mainly due to the mining boom. Demand for mineral and energy resources in China and Asia are creating the boom. Lots of capital is being invested and lots of people are going to work in the mines for high wages. Unemployment is very low – only 4.5% and dropping. Simply put Australia capitalism is running out of workers. There is a labour shortage and this is threatening to push up wages. Capitalism is trying to squeeze more and more work out of all of us – despite overtime in Australia being worth $72 billion a year or about 6% of GDP. What the government is trying to do is to force more and more people into the bottom end of the work force in an attempt to hold down wages, and they are trying to do this by invading people’s lives and using welfare payments as a form of control.

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