Aspect May 2017

Aspect Newsletter

From the Executive Director

Editorial: A tale of two Budgets

Kasy ED 4_prefScience fiction or fantasy writing can be a useful genre for exploring moral dilemmas by removing the current context and allowing us to focus purely on the issue itself. Such is the power of a short story by Ursula Le Guin; The Ones who walk away from Omelas.

In the story there is a beautiful and harmonious society where food and goodwill are plentiful and consequently life is bountiful and rewarding. The rub, for surely there must be one, is that this society can only exist because its harmony and bounty relies on a child being held in barbaric and undignified circumstances. Fed and watered with survival amounts but held in his or her own filth, chained and unspoken to. 

Because this is fantasy we do not need to question the mechanism of why this society needs the debasement of this child to maintain its utopia. We only need know that it does, which allows us to engage with our moral response to this, rather than trying to solve the problem of why a society would be structured thus.

As budget night wore on this year and we took our annual dive into thousands of pages of the papers, I was not so much reminded of this story as unable to think of little else. To continue the literary references, it seemed that this was a tale of two budgets.

The top level one, the one that would affect most people and that most people would see was one of often small but sensible measures. Housing received some long overdue attention in this budget, and   even more welcome was the fact that the attention was to more than first home buyers. Renters received a mention and whilst the government said negative gearing was off the table, a couple of "small" tweaks will yield $800 million over four years.

The full funding of the NDIS via an increase to the Medicare levy was another welcome sight. Quarantining the money in this way was a desirable change from last year's attempt to fund it through savings from other portfolio measures.

I said, however, it was a tale of two budgets and the other budget was mean and unnecessary. Measures aimed at those unfortunate enough to be unemployed can only be described as vindictive.

It was as if the government believed we could only maintain our comfortable and progressive lifestyle if we had someone to kick. And that someone is the easiest target of all – the unemployed. As in Le Guin's story there is no monetary need for this. The savings are small and the potential consequences large. For example requiring someone to draw down on savings for six months before accessing government support is counter-productive. It will simply see those on Newstart begin their new start already below the poverty line. Hardly a good place from which to gain employment and start again.

At the beginning of this week Anglicare Australia member, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, hosted a seminar on the Social Investment Approach to welfare. Like any approach there is good and bad in this. There is good potential for the approach to be able to identify vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in our society. However the rhetoric and interventions quickly seem to move to the individual in a way which enforces all the risks of life onto the individual and away from the community. It should however give us the evidence about what works and what doesn't, where money spent on interventions is well spent. It should underpin the oft repeated cliche of evidence-based practice.

How can it be then that so many of the measures targeting those on the lowest incomes are at best untested and in some cases actually fly in the face of international evidence. Evaluation of various programmes overseas which tested applicants on income support for illicit drugs for example have been found to be expensive and ineffective. Of course we have to ask ineffective at what? If the aim is to enable people to address their drug use through referrals to rehabilitation and counseling for example then would we not expect to see increases in funding for those programmes? If, on the other hand, the aim is to create a narrative for kicking the underdog then it may well be effective.

And what evidence is there for keeping government benefits so low? When even the business community calls for an increase surely this has to be considered. Our own Anglicare Jobs Availability Snapshot shows that there are 6.3 disadvantaged jobseekers for every entry level position. In the face of this, continuing to blame the unemployed is unreasonable and irrational.

So just like the fantasy story we began with, the evidence for this approach is sparse and concocted. In a plentiful society it is the meanest thing of all for the people with so much to begrudge small crumbs to those with so little. It is more pernicious still though; it serves to keep people poor, to limit social mobility, to create and maintain the myth that our society will not and cannot be generous to all.

The underlying "mean and unnecessary" budget doesn't just leave a bad taste, it poisons the whole "sensible if small" story and leaves me wondering why people with so much need the proverbial small child to mistreat and beat.

Kasy Chambers

National Office News

National Office News: Federal Budget, National Conference and More

2017 Federal Budget
Anglicare Australia’s national office team were involved in many meetings and events before and after this year’s Budget. We were also kept busy on Budget night with our usual work of putting together the Budget Fast Facts publication for Anglicare member organisations as well as a statement for the media.

Anglicare Australia Executive Director, Kasy Chambers and Policy and Research Director, Imogen Ebsworth attended the Budget lock-up at Treasury while Deputy Director Roland Manderson attended the Department of Health briefing. Our commentary on the Budget included an interview on Sky News featuring Deputy Director Roland Manderson, an opinion piece from Executive Director Kasy Chambers featured in the Huffington Post, and a national media response from the community sector led by the Australian Council of Social Service. Anglicare’s response was also written up by specialist outlets and regional and local media across Australia.

A selection of articles is provided below:

Treasurer Says Budget 2017 Offers Fairness, Opportunity and Security
- Mixed reactions to Federal budget from Service providers
- Social service groups wary about federal government's budget
- Welfare organisations denounce federal government budget's welfare reforms
- Centrelink drug testing risks "dooming" unemployed to homelessness

Anglicare Australia releases annual Federal Budget analysis
On Budget night, Anglicare Australia released its annual budget analysis, Budget Fast Facts.

Many aspects of this year’s Budget were disappointing, including the freezing of income support payments, cuts family tax benefits, and punitive programs for Centrelink recipients. However, we welcome positive measures on housing affordability and homelessness, as well as the full funding of the NDIS.

To read Anglicare Australia’s Budget Fast Facts, click here.

What the budget means for housing and homelessness
RAS ReportHousing continues to be a major priority for Anglicare Australia. Everybody needs a home – and in the lead-up to the Budget, Anglicare called on the Government to tackle housing inequality head-on with a comprehensive plan. We didn’t quite get there, but there are promising signs.

The Government has committed to raising money from some of the right places and funding measures that make a good start on making housing more affordable and tackling homelessness.

To read Anglicare Australia’s Budget Housing Fact Sheet, click here.

Opinion piece: Budget forgets that we’re all in this together
In an Opinion Piece published on the Huffington Post, Executive Director of Anglicare Australia Kasy Chambers responds to the Federal Budget. She says that pushing the line that we need to stop 'welfare dependency' allows the government to disguise inequality as a personal failure rather than a market failure.

To read the full opinion piece, click here.

Media release: Budget forgets that we’re all in this together
Anglicare Australia released the following Media Release on Budget night: 

“This year’s Budget is a lost opportunity to tackle inequality. Instead, we’ve gotten another Budget that pits Australians against each other,” Anglicare Australia Executive Director, Kasy Chambers said today.

“Support payments for job seekers, pensioners, and people with disabilities have become a poverty trap. They’re so low that paying rent means you can’t then afford to buy food, clothing, transport or go to the doctor.

To read the full media release, click here.

Epic training in Slovakia
Anglicare Australia member EpicAssist has for a number of years been working in Slovakia, doing what it does best – assisting with employment for people excluded from the workforce.

rajecke tepliceThe latest project is aimed at developing the capacity of young leaders from the disability employment field across Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The first part of the project saw the group come together in Slovakia to hear from various members of the EpicAssist team.  Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers attended to give the keynote sessions at the start of the week, and be involved in the conversations about sector leadership and development.

Stage two of the project will bring the participants to Brisbane in July to work with EpicAssist and take part in job shadowing and further training.

Anglicare to contribute to new National Aged Care Alliance paper
Anglicare Australia played an active role in the May meeting of the National Aged Care Alliance. The Alliance (NACA) has played a prominent role in bringing all faces of the aged care sector together in working with governments in the reform of Australia's aged care system. It has an commitment to  ensure all its age care advocacy is viewed through the rubric of equity of access and outcomes.

At the May meeting the Alliance supported an initiative by NACA's Affordable Housing Interest Group  to develop a new paper. The paper would provide a strong argument for public policy initiatives that increase the availability of affordable, accessible, secure, well-located housing for older people. This is particularly relevant in the context of aged care reforms that are shaped by an expanded probation of home care, and hinge on wellness and reablement as key principles of care. 

This initiative, to which Anglicare Australia and its members will contribute, is a significant  step in linking aged care reform with progress and social development at a broader level.

Anglicare welcomes new Communications and Media Director
Anglicare Australia is delighted to introduce our new National Communications and Media Director, Maiy Azize. 

As many of you would know Maiy started on a short term basis just before the release of this year's Rental Affordability Snapshot and also saw us through the Budget.

Maiy has since won the permanent position with us, and you can meet her at the Conference this September, if not before. 

Maiy has previously worked for the Greens' Federal and ACT parliamentary teams, and looks forward to using that experience in building strong advocacy and media partnerships across the network.

Register for Anglicare Australia’s 2017 Conference
Registrations are open for the Anglicare Australia National Conference, to be held at the Crowne Plaza, Coogee Beach.

With a focus on the theme Stronger Together: Our Mission in the Marketplace we welcome workshops and presentations in all service types from member organisations in areas such as:

- Cutting edge service design
- Client experience and co-production
- Communications strategies for advocacy and for service delivery
- Faith-based engagement
- Leadership, management and staff development
- Marketing / fundraising
- Organisational development
- Research, evaluation and outcomes measurement

Papers should be submitted by no later than Friday 16 June 2017.

To register or submit a paper, click here.

Nominations Open: National Awards for Innovation and Excellence
Anglicare National Awards 2017Nominations have opened for the Anglicare Australia National Awards for Innovation and Excellence. The Anglicare Australia National Awards for Innovation and Excellence, sponsored by Telstra, recognise outstanding services, projects and programs provided by the organisations of the Anglicare Australia network, as well as individual volunteers who have made a significant contribution.
 
The awards are an opportunity to promote successful programs within Anglicare agencies, or recognise the contributions of outstanding volunteers.

To download a nomination form or find out more about the awards, click here.

Anglicare Network News

Anglicare Network News: Federal Budget

This month, the Anglicare network has been responding to the Federal Budget. Below is a selection of responses from our members.

Federal Budget lacks coherent jobless strategy
By Jeremy Halcrow, CEO of Anglicare NSW South, NSW West and ACT

The Federal budget has been called “Labor-lite” by conservative media. Others labelled it “incoherent” because it lacked a unifying philosophy or strategy. Indeed, there wasn’t a consistent vision for Australian society in Mr Morrison’s presentation at the ACOSS Post-Budget breakfast at UTS, with various elements pulling in different directions.

The positive in this year’s budget was that the Federal Government has made a step toward addressing the housing affordability crisis and related homelessness. “It’s one of the areas where we are relieving pressure on rising costs,” Scott Morrison told the ACOSS breakfast.

Anglicare believes that tackling rental affordability for low income households must be a policy priority. Providing appropriate, affordable housing is a fundamental need for all citizens. We could quibble about the size of the spend on housing, but we now have key parts of the policy architecture needed to address affordability. As economist Dr Marcus Spiller put it: “At least this budget has put the levers in place and future Governments can pull them”. Of course, the gap is the lack of focus on addressing the tax treatment of investment properties, especially capital gains tax. But it is noteworthy that the Treasurer has even tweaked negative gearing by limiting the travel claims landlords can make against their properties.

However, the so-called “welfare integrity” measures, such as drug testing the unemployed, undermines the positive step taken on housing affordability because it will hit the most vulnerable the hardest.

The real question is whether the Coalition believes in a universal safety net for all citizens or sees welfare as a privilege you have to earn. Should only the “deserving” receive our help? Following this logic leads us down a dangerous path. Whilst the Government should be careful stewards of the public purse, it would be very troubling if this philosophy extended into Government-funded assistance services. This approach is certainly contrary to Anglicare’s values, of being inclusive and non-discriminatory in our care.

So what can we do in the face of the constant demonization of the unemployed? One ray of hope is that the public does understand that people are losing jobs for structural reasons, such as automation.

The Australian welfare system should be a universal safety net that ultimately protects all of us by ensuring we have a reasonable level of social equality and civil cohesion. Right now the safety net is so low, and is so full of holes, that it’s not going to stop people hitting the ground.

Budget fails to relieve the burden of many
By Peter Gardiner, CEO of the Samaritans Foundation

The Turnbull Government’s tagline in Tuesday night’s budget touted fairness, opportunity and security for all Australians, but the reality of this statement is of grave concern for vulnerable people and those organisations that support them. 

The 2017 budget has resulted in apprehension for what the government intends to do to stop the increase of poverty in Australia, specifically with no commitment to increasing support payments, family tax benefits and expanding the cashless welfare trial and demerit scheme. 

This year’s budget has frozen welfare payments at dangerously low levels, ignoring calls from services providers and the welfare sector to consider increases as a matter of priority.

Unfortunately, a lack of increased investment in support payments always has the biggest impact on those who need the most support to break the poverty cycle- children, young people, families and people with a disability. Poverty is not just about money or starvation. It’s about access to appropriate healthcare, affordable and appropriate housing, education and inclusion in society. Many of these issues were not adequately addressed in the budget and payments remain so low that poverty is a real scenario for many. 

It’s particularly disappointing to see yet another attempt to reduce family tax benefits which will affect so many Australians who depend on such support. Families are already experiencing financial stress through the ever-increasing costs of living and it is simply unjust for families to assume the burden of balancing the budget for political gain.

The biggest win from the 2017 budget was the government’s move to secure the future of the NDIS through the Medicare Levy and there was also welcome news of investment in the mental health space. News of the government’s commitment to helping people with mental health-related disabilities under the NDIS is a huge win for vulnerable people. 

After this budget, we’re looking to the Turnbull Government to truly deliver on their promises of a fair and secure Australia, with adequate opportunity for all.

At Samaritans, we’re encouraging all levels of Government to work together to end the poverty trap and create a safe and secure community for everyone.

Mean-spirited welfare measures punish poor and overshadow Budget’s positive moves on housing
By Paul McDonald, CEO of Anglicare Victoria

The Budget’s welfare measures overshadowed positive moves on disability and housing, including a new national homelessness and housing agreement and $375 million over three years for homelessness services. Instead of taking the opportunity to invest in people and increase welfare payments so people can pay modest rents and cover basic costs of living – the government has taken a punitive approach.

Plans to halve payments for missed appointments, and then cut off welfare for a month for further breaches could have very serious consequences.

The impact of having no income for a month will lead to extreme financial and mental stress and put people already under extreme hardship at further risk of becoming involved in criminal activity or inappropriate lending practices. Not providing disability payments for drug or alcohol related injuries, and random drug testing trials are other examples of government abandoning our society’s most vulnerable.

Funding for social impact investments targeting priority groups such as care leavers was another positive, although the Budget had missed the opportunity to throw Commonwealth support behind raising the age of young people leaving state care. Each year, around 3000 Australians leave state before they turn 18 and are at risk of being homeless, unemployed, a new parent or imprisoned within 12 months. Raising the age to 21 across Australia would give them the support they need to make a better start to adult life.

Some good news, but compliance regime raises worries for vulnerable
By Tony Nicholson, Executive Director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence

Delivering the Coalition Government's fourth Budget, Treasurer Scott Morrison cites principles of fairness and opportunity. The Brotherhood of St Laurence believes the fairness test is met when substantial action is taken to build the capacity of disadvantaged job seekers to fully participate in the modern economy and opportunities, in turn, are created to help them transition into work. On this test, there are mixed messages in this Turnbull Government Budget.

The integrity of our welfare system is important, but this does not necessarily mean that people are taking “an easy ride”. We are concerned about the proposed new Jobseeker Compliance Framework, and the withdrawal of income support for vulnerable people that would follow in a new tiered demerit system.

We know from our experience working with highly disadvantaged people that the challenges they face are much more complex than is being portrayed. The risk is that the proposed demerit system, devoid of administrative discretion and not accounting for a full understanding of individual circumstances, will cause increasing levels of homelessness through reduced and cancelled payments. For example, we know that about half the homeless people sleeping rough on our streets are unemployed and rely on unemployment benefits. Payment rates are very low so they can't cover spiralling rents in our cities, let alone look for work and comply with Centrelink job search requirements.

Several new changes to the operation of the welfare system including expansion of the activity test for job seekers from 30 to the age they become eligible for the Age Pension, and a merged Job Seeker Payment to replace several current payments. The system as a whole has been struggling with Centrelink’s automated debt recovery mechanism. I hope it will be able to cope with these new demands and that they will prove effective in assisting people into work.

Poverty and disadvantage that persist in our otherwise prosperous country not only hurt the people directly affected, they are bad for the economy, and also hurt us all. We need to invest in our most disadvantaged people to build an inclusive Australia, one that complies with a foundational principle of our society: a fair go for all.

Seizing the chance to get the system right
By Jeremy McAuliffe, general manager of home care at Benetas

One of the major issues to come out of recent budget announcements has been the deferral of the planned 2018 merger of the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) and the Home Care Packages program. The merger is intended to provide increased clarity, stability and continuity of care for home care consumers, and the timeframe extension has several significant implications.

In an environment where we are trying to make things as straightforward as possible for consumers, operating two different programs essentially offering similar services is confusing. There are multiple service streams, duplications across both, and neither system is able to operate as efficiently or effectively as needed.

Consumers deserve a better continuum of care; one where they can move seamlessly between services as their needs change. The proposed merger of the two programs promises to deliver on that, but until it happens we are continuing to deny consumers full and effective choice.

The major challenges to integration are the structural differences between the two programs, particularly around funding and consumer fee arrangements. These often prove disincentives for CHSP consumers to take up home care packages.

But until one integrated service system is in play, we will continue to make inefficient use of funding and lose the opportunity to place consumers at a point in the system that is most aligned to their level of need.

As a consequence of the delay, the government has promised to extend CHSP funding arrangements. While this provides some short-term security for consumers and providers, it doesn’t do anything to address the ongoing and critical shortfall of service provision.

The deferral does present government however with an important opportunity to bring stability to an environment that has seen significant change since the introduction of the My Aged Care system, consumer directed care and this year’s move to allocate packages to consumers from February.

We have seen a range of issues present themselves which indicate that there is room for improvement with aspects of the current system. Feedback from providers and consumers suggests that the My Aged Care referral system and prioritisation process, and the Medicare claim and payment system, are yet to operate at optimal functionality and effectiveness. Indeed, it is promising that government has recognised the impacts of inadequate resourcing by allocating $3.1 million to support My Aged Care operations.

The extension further gives government the opportunity to progress development of a single set of quality standards and to apply outcomes from its current investigations and consultations around wellness and reablement to the development of the integrated program.

The deferral also offers more time to address inconsistencies within current assessment structures. A cohesive, independent and high-functioning integrated assessment service is essential to the future of aged care. We need a system that is fully constructed within the My Aged Care context to ensure current assessment and referral delays are addressed, and that consumers have timely and appropriate access to the services they need.

While the deferral is not ideal, it does give us the opportunity to resolve some of the current issues impacting home care.  This is our chance to get it right and ensure we are delivering high quality and responsive home care which best meets the needs of older Australians, well into the future.

National Awards Profile

Awards profile: Benetas and the Brotherhood of St Laurence

Welcome to the next in our series of profiles on the winners and highly commended of the Anglicare Australia 2016 National Awards for Innovation and Excellence. These profiles are featured in the 2017 Anglicare Australia Review.

given_the_chance_newGiven the Chance, an innovative partnership between Benetas and the Brotherhood of St Laurence, has given marginalised job seekers a chance to gain employment in aged care. It is an employment program to support diverse groups to access meaningful employment.

As part of the program, new employees received mentoring from existing staff and the Brotherhood of St Laurence to help them learn more about Benetas and aged care, and to improve their skills and gain confidence.

Given the Chance has now received approval for ongoing funding with three new jobseekers. The success of this program highlights the opportunities provided by partnership-based approaches to tackling workplace exclusion. The judges said that this partnership delivered on all fronts. It had great outcomes for participants, clients of aged care and both organisations.

The judges noted that while both organisations were members of the Anglicare family their focus was different and they both brought the best of their internal expertise to the benefit of several communities of disadvantage.

Research and Resources

New research: National Shelter, Salvation Army and AHURI

Economic Social Impact Survey
The national Economic and Social Impact Survey 2017 is the sixth consecutive report by The Salvation Army exploring the challenges, barriers, and levels of disadvantage experienced by those who access our emergency relief services. It again confirms unacceptably persistent disadvantage and exclusion experienced by individuals and their families.

To read the report, click here.

Rental Affordability Index
National Shelter, Community Sector Banking and SGS have released the Rental Affordability Index (RAI) on a biannual basis since 2015. The RAI is intended to complement the Housing Affordability Index (HAI) which is a price index for the purchase of houses. It is an easy to understand indicator of rental affordability relative to household incomes and is applied to geographic areas across Australia. 

To read the report, click here.

 
Getting the best from the private rental sector for lower income householdsAHURI Report
The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute’s new paper, Getting the best from the private rental sector for lower income households, looks at the impacts of Government spending on the private rental market — from Commonwealth Rent Assistance direct payments for low-income households needing help with rent to the indirect tax concessions of negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts for investors.

To read the paper, click here.

Government Policy and Information

New consultations: CDP, NDIS and law reform

The appropriateness and effectiveness of the objectives, design, implementation and evaluation of the Community Development Program (CDP)
The Finance and Public Administration References Committee will undertake an inquiry into the Community Development Program, after new research raised concerns that the program is creating significant hardship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Inquiry will review the appropriateness and effectiveness of the objectives, design, implementation and evaluation of the CDP.

Submissions close Friday June 9, 2017.

NDIS Code of Conduct
The Department of Social Services is developing a new NDIS Code of Conduct to accompany the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework. The Department is consulting on the Code, and submissions are invited to the Consultation Paper. An online survey is also open.

Survey responses and submissions close Wednesday 21 June 2017.

Incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
The Australian Law Reform Commission is examining the factors leading to the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our prisons, and considering law reform to ameliorate this.

Submissions close Thursday 31 August 2017. 

Sector Events

Sector Events, April-May, 2017

7th International Carers Conference
Dates: 4-6 October at the Adelaide Convention Centre

FCA Conference (Financial Counsellors Australia)
Dates: 14-17 May, 2017

HESTA awards
Nominations for the 2017 HESTA Australian Nursing and Midwifery Awards are now open. The annual Awards recognise graduates, individuals and teams for their professionalism, innovation and care, across a range of health settings. 

GARMA festival
Registrations have opened for the Garma festival. Run by the Yothu Yindi Foundation, the Garma festival will take place from the 4th to the 7th of August. Anglicare representatives will be at the festival – for more information, email [email protected].

18th International Mental Health Conference
Abstract submissions are now being accepted for the 18th International Mental Health Conference, which will be held on the Gold Coast on 21-23 August 2017. Visit the website to submit your abstracts orregister.

 

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