Daily News - Wednesday 2 July 2014

Posted 2 July 2014 6:28am

Extension ladders or parallel bars? The future of the community welfare sector
Helen Dickenson, The Power to Persuade

Tony Nicholson recently gave an impassioned speech on the future of the community welfare sector and in doing so articulated a number of the sorts of concerns that have been expressed in parts of this sector for some time. Nicholson argues that we are on the precipice of significant change in the community welfare sector and that ‘in the next year or two decisions will be made about its future that in all likelihood will be irrevocable…if wrong decisions are taken, they will inevitably lead to the erosion of what our voluntary organisations have stood for over a century’.


A deeper problem: ‘Paying their way,’ not ‘accepting charity’
Tanya Corrie, The Power to Persuade

There are many organisations, including mine, that do their best to enable service users to represent their needs. We attempt to do this in a variety of ways – through research, case studies, developing community advocates and many other mechanisms. However, these comments do raise some very important questions. These are: at what point do we start to start to patronise service users in our advocacy efforts by speaking on their behalf, however unintentional? Are we giving those affected by policies enough of a platform to express what their needs are?


UK - We have to set an agenda for our new role in civil society'
Linda Butcher, Third Sector

It's important the voices of the most marginalised are heard. Who Benefits? is a practical example of a collaborative campaign using crowd-sourced material to challenge some of the language used to discuss benefit recipients. It gives benefit recipients, past and present, a platform to tell their stories.

Despite the coming general election, political party membership is at an all-time low, with less than 1 per cent of adults belonging to a party. But that doesn't mean people aren't engaging with democracy; they're just doing politics differently.

People are engaging with issues they care about through campaigning, be it with charities, as campaign groups or at a grass-roots level. Sometimes they do it as lone but passionate individuals. As a sector, we should help this process of participatory democracy and engagement, such as the campaigns in Scotland that work to engage people in the overall independence debate, rather than pitching a particular "no" or "yes".


Stronger Relationships Trial Begins
Kevin Andrews, media release

Committed couples can now register online for a $200 subsidy towards the cost of relationship education and counselling services, under the Australian Government’s Stronger Relationships trial.

Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews said the one-year trial will provide up to 100,000 couples across Australia with relationship education and counselling with a provider of their choice.

“Happy, healthy and strong relationships are vital for individual and family wellbeing, and help to strengthen communities too,” Mr Andrews said.


Govt Appoints Acting Disability Commissioner
Pro Bono News

Former Hawke Government Minister and current Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan has been appointed as acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

Attorney-General Senator George Brandis says the appointment will ensure that the Commission’s important work to protect the rights of people with disability continues when the appointment of Graeme Innes expires on July 11.


Next phase for NDIS children
Caroline Winter, PM, ABC

A new group of children became eligible for funding today, as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) enters its second year.

Disability advocates say while it is positive that the program is continuing, the scheme is inconsistent and has been dogged by delays.

Disabled children aged six and seven in South Australia will be assessed from today with children up to 13 eligible by next April.


WA launches Commonwealth and state NDIS trials
Anna Vidot, PM, ABC

For the people with disabilities, their families and carers gathered to celebrate the launch of a National Disability Insurance Scheme trial in the Perth Hills, the excitement and optimism was clear.


The Trauma of Parenthood
Eli Finkel, New York Times

Everyone knows that being the parent of an infant is hard. There’s the sleeplessness, the screaming fits to tend to, the loss of autonomy, the social isolation and the sheer monotony of it.

Everyone also knows that there is only one socially acceptable response to this predicament: a dogged insistence that the adoration you feel for your child makes all the sacrifices worthwhile. It’s “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” The only valid excuse for feeling sad or despondent is a postpartum hormonal crash. What other justification could there be for greeting your bundle of joy with despair?

This is the ideology of modern parenting, and it can lead to unnecessary feelings of guilt and shame, for it ignores an inconvenient truth: that many women and men experience significant psychological distress in response to becoming a parent and that much of this distress isn’t caused by a hormonal epiphenomenon of the birth process. It is driven instead in large measure by the objectively bleak circumstances new parents often face. That you love your child is not always sufficient to counteract this reality.


When Negativity Is What We Need
Anna North, New York Times

If your friend is feeling bad about himself, you might try to convince him that everything’s actually O.K. But a new study suggests this kind of reassurance doesn’t necessarily make people with low self-esteem feel better, and some say it’s further evidence against the idea that positive thinking heals all wounds.


Welfare plan endangers mental health

The NSW Mental Health commissioner has taken a swipe at planned federal changes to youth welfare, after a Mission Australia report showed one in five young people are dealing with mental illness.

John Feneley was speaking at the launch of Mission Australia and The Black Dog Institute's 2014 Mental Health Youth Report - a study of 15- to 19-year-olds across the country that found 21 per cent of the 15,000 surveyed were battling a probable mental illness.


Psychiatrists concerned McClure report could stigmatise people with mental illness
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, media release

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists says there needs to be careful consultation about any changes to the Disability Support Pension and is concerned about the short time frame given for feedback.

Patrick McClure’s interim report released on Sunday proposes moving thousands of DSP recipients with a mental illness ‘episodic’ in nature to a working age payment.

College President-elect Professor Malcolm Hopwood says this is worrying.

“One of the difficulties arising from various mental illnesses - for example depression and bipolar disorder - is that whilst they are episodic in nature, with stable and unstable periods even with treatment or medication, inter-episode problems can and do occur.

“Therefore it can be difficult to hold down a job, meaning the individual’s income can be unreliable or interrupted if they have to withdraw from employment to manage their condition,” Professor Hopwood says.

He says provision needs to be made to allow individuals to recover from an episode of illness and to maintain a viable financial position.


Mental illness does not mean a lifetime on welfare, says Jeff Kennett
Judith Ireland, Sydney Morning Herald

Having a mental illness should not be an ''automatic entry'' to a lifetime of welfare support Beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett has said, embracing a federal government proposal to shift more people with mental illness into work.

Patrick McClure's discussion paper on welfare, released on Sunday, suggests that only people with a permanent impairment and no capacity to work should receive the Disability Support Pension.

... According to Mental Health Council of Australia chief executive Frank Quinlan, many people with mental illness want to work, but are hampered by an enormous stigma around mental illness.

''Many people are ready, willing and able to get back into work, but the work environment and the structure of workplaces doesn't always allow them.''


What does the Mental Health Council of Australia think of the direction of welfare reforms?

Last week I met a young woman with mental health problems who was applying for the DSP. She told me the Centrelink worker ‘pushed her buttons’ to see just how ‘unwell’ she was.

Here was a young woman, with a range of health problems that are episodic, and who has struggled in the workplace because of this; and yet she has to ‘prove’ she’s mad, or mad enough, in order for a government to help her until she is resilient enough to be able to resume working.

This young person has ‘learned’ and ‘earned’, she just couldn’t find a boss willing and able to construct a working environment that was adaptable to her health needs.


Welfare review fails to understand Australia’s labour market
Veronica Sheen, The Conversation

The interim report of the Review of Australia’s Welfare System, led by former Mission Australia CEO Patrick McClure, is a vexed piece of work. Much in it is commendable and even far-sighted, but there is also much in it that is deeply problematic, reflecting the limitations of the context in which it is written.


The Welfare System Ain't Broke, So Why Fix It?
Ben Eltham, New Matilda

Nothing demonstrates the mean-spirited mentality of this government more than its obdurate desire, despite all the evidence, to “reform” Australia’s welfare state.

Does Australia’s welfare system need reforming? The available evidence says no. The federal government’s deficit has been driven by lower-than-expected revenues, rather than any blow out in spending. Australia runs quite a small government as a share of our overall economy. In comparison with other wealthy nations, we don’t tax very much, and we don’t spend very much either.


Why we need a sensible debate about welfare reform
Jessica Irvine, news.com.au

The truth is, welfare systems around the world are under pressure from ageing populations. We need even more people to work — and for longer — and fewer people to rely on welfare if budgets are ever going to balance.

... the current DSP system is ill equipped to deal with this rise in mental health problems.

The McClure report praises programs like the “headspace” program which helps young people with mental health issues get job ready.

More funding for such programs would raise more money than they cost in moving people into work.


One Stop Shop: The Abbott Government’s McClure Report & Its Consequences
Kevin Andrews, The Sydney Institute (audio)

The cornerstone of our approach to welfare reform is the Abbott government's strong committment to maintaining a strong safety net for those who need help and cannot support themselves. But this comes hand in hand with our steadfast belief that the best form of welfare is a job.

The ageing of the population presents a fiscal challenge to Australia. This makes it more important than ever to ensure that welfare spending is both sustainable and directed to those who genuinely need it. The government wants to ensure the welfare system encourages people to participate in work when they are of workforce age and are able to do so. Because the best form of welfare is a job. People are better off overall when they are active participants in our workforce.


Spending that reduces individual and family dysfunction can benefit taxpayers, says McClure review
Interim Report of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform to the Minister for Social Services

Families that function well generate benefits for individual family members as well as for communities and government.

Australian and international research has identified major social and economic costs to governments, communities, families and individuals from family dysfunction. Family dysfunction can contribute to educational under achievement, unemployment, income support, alcohol and drug abuse, poor health outcomes, teenage pregnancy, failed relationships, criminality, and court and police costs.

Investing in cost-effective approaches that reduce individual and family dysfunction not only benefits individuals and families but also potentially delivers better value to taxpayers.

The Helping Young Parents and Supporting Jobless Families trials recognise the benefits of positive family functioning by including requirements that parents take part in activities that help them develop their parenting skills.


Welfare review opens the door for more cuts
Rachel Siewert, SBS

In reality, this review is likely to be used by Tony Abbott as an excuse to make further deep cuts and 'reforms' to income support, just as the first McClure review was used by the Howard Government as excuse to bring in mutual obligation, including policies like welfare to work and cuts to single parents.

I might have more faith in the process if it wasn't based on the same rhetoric we heard from the Howard Government, and if the previous 'reforms' weren't still hurting people today.


NZ - Report validates 'punt' on youth welfare
Stacy Kirk, stuff.co.nz

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett admits the Government "took a punt" on sweeping welfare reforms targeting youth, relying on little more than common sense.

But a new report appears to have validated that gamble, showing significant inroads have been made toward breaking the cycle of welfare dependency.

Ministry of Social Development figures released yesterday showed 16 and 17-year-olds on a benefit accounted for 70 per cent of the ministry's future welfare liability.


NZ - Investment approach: Key findings and background facts
Ministry of Social Development

To achieve the goal of reducing long-term welfare dependency, the Government has implemented an Investment Approach to welfare. The aim of the Investment Approach is to use appropriations better by providing services that best help people become independent of the welfare system as well as supporting those who are unable to work.

A key part of the Investment Approach is a multi-category appropriation (MCA) which provides greater flexibility for management to direct funding to where it will be most effective. This brings a responsibility to monitor the effectiveness of the various investments. The MCA begins from 1 January 2014.


NZ - How is Government evaluating its welfare reforms, and why aren’t we allowed to know?
Michael Fletcher, Public Address

Welfare reform is about so much more that saving on benefit costs. As the Government and the Welfare Working Group both argued, its objectives are to improve the lives of ordinary New Zealanders. Publicly available monitoring and evaluation information on these outcomes – on what is happening in the real world outside Taylor Fry’s black box – is the only way we can judge the success or otherwise of the reforms. So why is the Ministry of Social Development hiding behind the Official Information Act to avoid telling us how they plan to do that? Are they only interested in cutting the fiscal liability?


Spending controls a waste, say welfare groups
Judith Ireland, Sydney Morning Herald

Welfare groups have warned the government that increasing controls around how people spend their welfare payments could backfire, arguing existing controls have already cost the Commonwealth $1 billion without producing concrete results, stigmatising people on low incomes in the process.

The McClure welfare review discussion paper released at the weekend suggests the government is considering expanding income management for people on welfare, specifically targeting job seekers and disadvantaged young people.


Ceduna income management scheme aims to stop cycle of alcohol, violence
Caroline Winter, The World Today, ABC

Its supporters are talking up a new income management scheme that's being launched on South Australia's west coast today, saying it should help to stop the cycle of alcohol and violence.

The people of Ceduna and surrounding communities will have the option to sign up voluntarily, while "problem offenders" will be forced onto the scheme.


Our youth need a fair go at a job
Cassandra Wilkinson, Centre for Independent Studies

The arrival of a bona fide right-winger such as Hewson into the inequality wars suggests two things: that inequality might not just be a convenient campaigning meme for the Left and that it might be of as much concern to those who believe in the individual as to those who believe in the collective.

If a wealthy minority was simply the price of progress for all, then none of this would matter. If the rich were getting rich by shepherding capital to productive purposes and innovating solutions to human needs, we could all sleep well with inequality.

But, as The American Conservative journal’s Noah Milman wrote recently, glibly dismissing inequality as the price of growth becomes difficult during times of slow growth, such as we’ve had since the global financial crisis. He also argues that inequality should be a non-partisan issue, as “few people are completely unconcerned about inequality and few people are completely unconcerned about stalling economic growth.”


US - Some Inequalities Are More Unequal Than Others
Noah Millman, The American Conservative (2012)

“Inequality” has for a long while been treated as a “Democratic” issue, either because it’s treated as code for concern for the poor (which one would hope would be something both parties care about) or code for envy of the rich (which one would hope would not be an important driving force for either party). But it’s become too serious an issue to be treated as code. I’ll admit, I’m convinced by the argument that the kind of pervasive and growing inequality we’ve seen develop in America has become a deep problem for our political and economic system as a whole, and not just for the fringes thereof. And it needs to be a central focus of both parties’ thinking and policymaking.


Inequality Is Not Inevitable
Joseph Stiglitz, The New York Times

If it is not the inexorable laws of economics that have led to America’s great divide, what is it? The straightforward answer: our policies and our politics. People get tired of hearing about Scandinavian success stories, but the fact of the matter is that Sweden, Finland and Norway have all succeeded in having about as much or faster growth in per capita incomes than the United States and with far greater equality.

... With almost a quarter of American children younger than 5 living in poverty, and with America doing so little for its poor, the deprivations of one generation are being visited upon the next. Of course, no country has ever come close to providing complete equality of opportunity. But why is America one of the advanced countries where the life prospects of the young are most sharply determined by the income and education of their parents?


Danish welfare narrows disparity

This is what it's like to live in Denmark, a nation with a narrower wealth gap than almost anywhere else: You've been jobless for more than a year. You have no university degree, no advanced skills. You have to pay a mortgage. And your husband is nearing retirement.

You aren't worried.


Tyranny of tolerance threatens religious freedom
Peter Kurti, Centre for Independent Studies

The freedom Australians have long enjoyed to worship their god of choosing and express their religious faith in public is under threat from the organised forces of secularism, according to a new report from The Centre for Independent Studies.


Vatican considers: How hard do bishops have to listen?
Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

As the world's Catholic bishops prepare for an October global meeting at the Vatican on family life issues, they face one central and disputed question: How much should the experiences and opinions of lay Catholics influence their discussions?


Pope on the bus?
LaVonne Neff, The Christian Century

A couple years ago I attended a large gathering where a Catholic sister, a well-known advocate on behalf of the poor, was present. Coming up behind her, I said, “Sister, you give me hope for the Catholic Church.” Without turning around she quipped, “I can tell you are not a bishop.”


Francis, capitalism and war
Erasmus, The Economist

For the Argentine pope, spontaneous gestures and remarks, and conversations with unlikely interlocutors, have become part of a well-established personal style, to the point where people are no longer surprised. But with due allowance for all that, he said some remarkable things in a recent interview with La Vanguardia, a daily paper published in Barcelona which runs an impressive global news-gathering operation (you can read an English translation in the National Catholic Register).

... the interview's real bombshell comes when he speaks of the global economic crisis and its causes. After denouncing the "atrocity" of youth unemployment, he observed that: "We are discarding an entire generation to maintain an economic system that can't hold up any more, a system that to survive, must make war, as all great empires have done. But as a third world war can't be waged, they make regional wars...they produce and sell weapons, and with this, the balance sheets of the idolatrous economies, the great world economies that sacrifice man at the feet of the idol of money, are resolved..."

By positing a link between capitalism and war, he seems to be taking an ultra-radical line: one that consciously or unconsciously follows Vladimir Lenin in his diagnosis of capitalism and imperialism as the main reason why world war broke out a century ago.


Pope says communists are closet Christians

Pope Francis, whose criticisms of unbridled capitalism have prompted some to label him a Marxist, said in an interview published on Sunday that communists had stolen the flag of Christianity.

The 77-year-old pontiff gave an interview to Il Messaggero, Rome's local newspaper, to mark the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, a Roman holiday.

He was asked about a blog post in the Economist magazine that said he sounded like a Leninist when he criticized capitalism and called for radical economic reform.

"I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel," he said, citing Biblical passages about the need to help the poor, the sick and the needy.

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