Senate supports Greens call for income support inquiry

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The Senate has today supported a motion put by the Australian Greens to hold an inquiry into income support payments, including Newstart.

“I am hopeful this Inquiry will build the evidence base which points to the need to improve payments and support for some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” Senator Rachel Siewert, Greens spokesperson on families and community services said today.

“Members of the community, service providers, business and a range of organisations will now have the chance to provide their important views and opinions on this issue to the Committee.

“I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have written to me about their own experience or about the experience of a loved one on income support – if nothing else, this inquiry will give those people an opportunity to have those experiences included on the public record.

“A review of this type is long overdue – basically there hasn’t been anything like it since the Henderson Poverty review in the 1970’s.

“The Inquiry will examine some of the core assumptions of the allowance payment system - including whether widening the gap between the payment and the minimum wage has really been an effective incentive into work.

“We need to identify the failings in the system that sees around two thirds of people on Newstart receive the payment for more than a year, and work out how to fix them.

“Central to this is the adequacy of the payment itself.

“The Inquiry will also look at how the relatively low rate of Newstart and the growing gap between pensions and allowances impacts on people moving between work and other activities.

“This is important with current Government policy pushing people from disability and parenting payments on to Newstart.

“The timeframe for this Inquiry will ensure the Committee can undertake a detailed and thorough investigation and assess the wide range of submissions I expect will be made.

“Today's vote is an important one and I look forward to working with the Committee on this important issue,” Senator Siewert concluded.

Terms of reference:

That the following matters be referred to the Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee for inquiry and report by 1 November 2012:

(a) the adequacy of the allowance payment system for jobseekers and others, with particular reference to the adequacy of the Newstart Allowance payment as an income support payment for jobseekers and the adequacy of all other allowance payments that support a range of recipients who study or provide care;

(b) the appropriateness of the allowance payment system as a support into work, with particular reference to:
(i) the effectiveness of the payment as an incentive into work,
(ii) the effectiveness of the allowance payment system in facilitating transitions between working and other activities, such as studying, caring and retirement, or in the event of illness or disability, and in helping or hindering recipients to overcome barriers to employment, and
(iii) the impact of the differences between pensions and allowances on the transition between working and other activities; and

(c) the impact of the changing nature of the labour market, particularly the rise of insecure work and decline of unskilled jobs, on the:
(i) nature and frequency of individual interaction with the allowance payment system, and
(ii) over and underpayment of allowances to recipients.