No Simple Fix to Address Intergenerational Disadvantage

Fr Frank Brennan SJ

Intergenerational welfare dependency cannot be addressed without first fixing factors affecting entrenched disadvantage, according to the Church’s peak national bodies for social services.

Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) and Jesuit Social Services, along with Catholic Care Wilcannia-Forbes, are set to appear before the Select Committee into Intergenerational Welfare Dependence in Canberra this week.

In its submission to the Committee’s inquiry, CSSA states that factors driving entrenched disadvantage vary greatly between locality and communities.

“While we recognise that work is an inherent part of the human condition, we also hold firm that the value and dignity of individuals must not be defined solely by their ability to participate in paid employment,” said Fr Frank Brennan SJ, CSSA’s chief executive officer.

“Our social safety net must therefore be able to support those unable to work to live a dignified life.

“Addressing entrenched disadvantage through the development of stronger and better coordinated social programs is an important piece of foundational work for the committee to consider.”

CSSA deputy CEO Joe Zabar said the Productivity Commission’s 2017 report into human services offered a way forward in developing and implementing longer-term and sustainable services to families and communities in need.

“It is time now for state and federal governments to work with service providers and local communities and get on with implementing the changes,” Mr Zabar said.

“While services are critical to addressing intergenerational disadvantage, so too is the welfare payment system.

“Australia has one of the most targeted welfare payments systems in the OECD. We know from our joint published research that low-income households, in particular those on welfare payments, do not receive sufficient income to live a frugal but dignified life.

“When the level of Newstart is so low that it becomes a barrier to employment, addressing that must be part of the solution.”

Fr Brennan said Australians deserved a welfare system which was fair, effective and efficient.

“More must be done to ensure that we don’t perpetuate the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage,” he said.

“While there is no simple fix to the many problems which cause intergenerational disadvantage, we have enough understanding to get things moving in the right direction.

“After all, a flourishing society is an inclusive one, where the poor, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged are supported in their time of need and given hope to fully realise their potential and live a life with dignity and respect.”