Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters MP has said today that the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill is a cruel attack on job seekers and those on welfare payments.
The Liberal Government Bill includes harsh work for the dole requirements, the stopping of back dating payments and the introduction of drug testing requirements for those beginning new applications of Newstart and Youth Allowance.
“The current Jobactive caseload in the Bendigo region is just over 5800 people. The proposals the Liberal Government puts forward in this Bill make it harder for job seekers and do nothing to actually help people find jobs.
In its current form the Bill is expected to affect around 8000 constituents in the Bendigo electorate.
“These 8000 people are living in hidden poverty,” said Ms Chesters.
“The Bill includes harsh drug testing requirements which are especially unfair in regional areas such as Bendigo where we lack support and rehabilitation facilities. I fear that vulnerable people will be pushed into poverty and homelessness if their payments are simply cut off.
Social service providers in Bendigo are struggling to service their current case load.
“We are already facing extreme demand in Bendigo and Regional Victoria for Social Support services. If some of these measures are allowed to pass, Federal Labor is worried more people will become dependent on these services but sadly they do not have the resources for this to happen.
Ms Chesters has called on the Federal Government to stop their attacks on the most vulnerable and show real leadership in an area that does not let Australians suffer.
“I believe in mutual obligation requirements but the Government is the other side of this partnership. They have to take responsibility for their role – they need to create jobs and provide opportunities before they begin cutting people off welfare payments.
“This is a cruel and harsh attack on vulnerable people in our community and in its current form, Labor is calling on Senators to stand with us and vote down this terrible bill,” said Ms Chesters.
Key Issues in this bill include:
Establishing a drug testing trial for social security recipients
Establishment of a drug testing trial that will see new applicants of Newstart and Youth Allowance required to undergo mandatory testing as a condition to receive their payment. Drug testing of income support recipients has been tried in several countries and there is no evidence to support it is effective.
The testing could potentially encourage people to use less traceable drugs, such as synthetic cannabis, or move to using alcohol which is not being tested as part of the trial.
Work for the dole restrictions
The expectation is that the activity requirements encourage people up to the age of 59 to participate in the workforce regardless of their ability to work or not.
Axing the Bereavement Allowance
Termination of Bereavement Allowance which is a short term payment for people whose partner has died.
It is paid for a maximum of 14 weeks at the rate of the Age Pension, and subject to the same income and assets test. For a pregnant woman who has lost her partner the allowance is paid for 14 weeks or the duration of her pregnancy, whichever is longer. This is a cruel cut to people receiving short term income support following the loss of a partner, without justification.
Start date for some participation payments
Not allowing those most at risk in the community such as the homeless or sick to back date their claims. This change would have a major effect on people who are not in a position or have the capacity to collate the required information in a timely fashion thus delaying welfare payments even longer.
• Inevitably if this Bill is approved it has potential to affect over 8000 people in the Bendigo area.