Daily News - Thursday 30 October 2014
National Disability Insurance Agency 'saves' money by not spending
Rachel Browne, The Canberra Times
The National Disability Insurance Agency underspent its budget by $18 million in the 2013-14 financial year, driving savings by reducing formal support in favour of "informal support" provided by family and community members.
According to the NDIA annual report, tabled in federal parliament on Wednesday, only $130.9 million of an allocated $148.8 million was spent on supporting people with disabilities in 2013-14.
Calls to give NDIS spending buffer
Rick Morton, The Australian ($)
The national disability insurance scheme will become unsustainable if it expands faster than the market that is meant to service it, leading to significant inflationary pressure on prices, the scheme’s actuary says.
The report from the actuary, contained in the first annual report for the NDIS released yesterday, was backed by Australian Government Actuary Peter Martin, who wrote to chairman Bruce Bonyhady earlier this month.
“The scheme actuary has identified a number of issues which have implications for the financial sustainability of the scheme and which, in my view, warrant careful consideration,” he said.
“I draw your attention particularly to her comments around the ICT system, the pace at which the scheme ramps up following the end of the trials and the importance of adopting a long-term view when considering spending decisions.”
Foster parents need more support to care for vulnerable children
Morag McArthur, The Conversation
When children are deemed at risk of abuse or neglect and are removed from the family home, they are placed in out-of-home care, either with foster parents, relatives or in residential facilities. The latter is the least preferred model and is often seen as a last resort.
As the number of children in out-of-home care increases, it is concerning that the number of foster care families available to support them has not followed suit. Instead, every year, 14% of foster carers cease their caring roles.
ACOSS Push for Welfare Funding
Pro Bono News
Welfare peak body ACOSS has called for a 6 months rollover of funding for any Not for Profits facing an end or reduction to their funding after the Abbott Government was forced to extend its application processing last week.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said more time is needed to ensure Not for Profits protect the clients and workers from the crises they will otherwise face if their social services are forced to close or reduce service levels in the face of changes to Government funding.
Last week the Federal Government was forced to extend the current funding arrangements for more than 5000 welfare charities for up to four months as it tries to respond to an “avalanche” of applications - but the charities are yet to be officially informed.
NSW Government faces roadblocks to homelessness reform
Lucia Osborne-Crowley, City News
The NSW Upper House has ordered the state government to release all documents relating to its controversial reforms to homelessness services.
The reform package, called Going Home Staying Home, introduced competitive tendering to homelessness services across NSW. The tender process resulted in the takeover of all of NSW’s women’s only refuges and women’s specific services, causing a backlash from the community.
Many inner city women’s services were taken over by large organisations in late August after these organisations won control of the services through the competitive tendering process.
Given that staff at these services had been providing specialised care for several decades, the fact that they were not successful in winning tenders for funding confused many members of the community.
Centacare Ballarat says housing scheme ‘open to rorting’
William Vallely, The Courier
A local welfare organisation involved in the government housing scheme under police investigation for alleged fraud says the program was “open to rorting”.
Centacare Ballarat successfully built 39 units with incentives from the New South Wales-based property-broker accused of extortion under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS), but Centacare chief executive David Beaver said the system was poorly designed.
“Developers saw it (NRAS) as a way of making money.
“It should have been restricted to community housing groups,” he said.
Government to consider housing and homelessness in federation white paper
Community Affairs Legislation Committee, Thursday 23 October
In Senate Estimates last week Senator Jan McLucas asked Department of Social Security (DSS) officers about the department's planned review of housing and homelessness. Deputy Secretary Felicity Hand responded:
The government's primary vehicle for considering housing and homelessness is being done through the reform of Federation—the white paper process—which has a particular focus, amongst other things, on housing. There will be an issues paper on housing and homelessness coming out, we expect, by the end of this calendar year. The reform of Federation review is considered the right process to really look deeply at housing and homelessness issues because, as you know, the service delivery for housing and homelessness is done almost exclusively by the states. The Commonwealth is involved in terms of its funding role through agreements through the NAHA and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, and so it is considered that, to really look deeply at the issue, it is appropriate to do it through the review of Federation process. Having said that, the minister and government continue to meet weekly with stakeholders and on issues of housing and homelessness, and will continue to do so. Concurrently, the minister intends in the very near future to host roundtable discussions with representatives, stakeholders and service providers on housing and homelessness matters. From those ongoing consultations and roundtables, relevant issues will feed into the review of Federation process to inform that deep review.
Grandparents who take primary care of their grandchildren should get vouchers to cover school expenses and computer training, the government has been told.
A Senate committee looking at grandparent carers also wants them granted the same financial allowances as foster carers.
Report -- Grandparents who take primary responsibility for raising their grandchildren
Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs
This inquiry focuses on the unmet support needs of grandparents who raise their grandchildren and how to address those needs.
Wollongong CatholicCare takes out Norma Parker Award
Lisa Wachsmuth, Illawarra Mercury
A unique parenting program that caters for those whose kids have been placed in care has netted CatholicCare Wollongong a national award.
The seven-week program, My Kids and Me, won the Norma Parker Award for the Most Innovative Program at the Catholic Social Services Australia annual awards this month.
Academic perspectives on The Forrest review: creating parity
Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, ANU
This CAEPR Topical Issue contains the collected works of academics engaged in the examination of The Forrest review: creating parity which was commissioned by the Prime Minister Tony Abbott to examine Indigenous training and employment in Australia. Each work represents the author's considered specialist disciplinary perspective informed by on-the-ground experience. Consequently, this paper provides an overview of the issues and challenges identified by academics as needing to be addressed when thinking about the recommendations of the Forrest Review and the impact they could have on people's lives if implemented.
Birth-to-primary school offers ‘blueprint to tackle inequity’
Patricia Karvelas, The Australian ($)
An innovative school in one of Western Australia’s most impoverished communities has been hailed for providing a blueprint for tackling disadvantage that should be rolled out across the nation.
A report to be published today has found the Challis Parenting and Early Learning Centre has significantly improved the performance of its students by offering integrated support services to families and children from birth onwards.
Mining billionaire Andrew Forrest and his wife Nicola have funded the centre in Armadale, an outer suburb of Perth, and believe the model must be adopted across the rest of the country.
The integrated support services include child health nurse sessions for new mothers, playgroups, kindergarten for three-year-olds, parenting programs and access to specialist services such as speech therapy and occupational therapy. Children attend the school from birth through primary school.
Minderoo Foundation submission: Response to the draft report of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into child care and early childhood learning (pdf).
Jobs Australia slams work for dole plan in remote communities
Patricia Karvelas, The Australian ($)
The peak group representing non-profit job agencies has attacked a plan to introduce 25 hours a week of work for the dole in 60 remote communities, arguing that it will be expensive and will not generate real and ongoing remote area jobs.
Jobs Australia chief executive David Thompson said the current system is showing improved results and must be given a chance to work.
It follows a report that unemployed Aborigines in remote communities will be forced into work for the dole five days a week, with tough new sanctions for failing to participate, under changes that have in-principle cabinet agreement.
Warren Mundine backs new work-for-the-dole scheme
Patricia Karvelas, The Australian ($)
Indigenous Advisory Council chief Warren Mundine said he had told the Prime Minister that anything less than five days a week of work for the dole was not preparing people for work.
“The problem we had in the past with the CDEP program was that people would work one or two days a week and that was it,’’ he said of the Community Development Employment Projects.
“If we are going to get people back into that working mentality we need them to get up every day — you know five days in the week — go to work and then come back home to work so they are starting to get that work ethic back.’’
‘Welfare card key to stemming drug funds’ as ice threat grows
Patricia Karvelas, The Australian ($)
The drug ice is becoming an issue in indigenous Australia, but alcohol and cannabis are still the dominant problems, the Northern Territory Chief Minister says.
Adam Giles told The Australian that methamphetamine use was increasing nationally, and the Northern Territory was not exempt. “There is strong evidence of indigenous people in urban areas that are heavily involved in the supply and use of ice,’’ he said.
... His comments came after mining magnate Andrew Forrest said drug syndicates were targeting vulnerable Australians, black and white. Mr Forrest has offered to meet Northern Territory indigenous MP Alison Anderson, who has denied hard drugs are being used in remote communities.
Ms Anderson said claims of an ice epidemic were merely a cynical attempt by outsiders to build support for Mr Forrest’s “ill-considered” review of the welfare system. She challenged University of Melbourne professor Marcia Langton to prove that ice was being widely used in remote communities, accusing her trying to stir up “moral panic”.
A Swiss canton is considering banning cars for people on state benefits, it's been reported.
Zurich's regional parliament has passed the first reading of a bill which would stop welfare payments being used to fund cars, unless a disability, illness or professional reasons could be proved, Le Matin website reports. The idea, proposed by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) and centre-right Liberals, caused a "lively debate" in the region's parliament, but passed by 87 votes to 84, the website says. Left-wing parties oppose the move.
Supporters of the proposal say people on welfare can't afford to pay for a car, and if they want one then their benefits payments should be reduced. "If someone can afford a car, it can be assumed that he has other sources of money," Jean-Philippe Pinto of the Christian Democratic People's Party, which supports the measure, is quoted as saying in Neue Zurcher Zeitung.
UK - Inequality and class prejudice in an age of austerity
Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute
A new SPERI brief published today shows that welfare reform reinforces growing class prejudice reminiscent of Victorian era.
... One of the key themes which emerged from the interviews was that poverty is a matter of choice and not of bad luck, social disadvantage or structural inequality. This was characteristically accompanied by a lack of empathy amongst the respondents for disadvantaged groups – including the physically disabled and mentally ill – who were dependent upon benefit receipt for their livelihoods.
Number of billionaires doubled since financial crisis as inequality spirals out of control – Oxfam
Sarah Dransfield, Oxfam UK
Rising inequality could set the fight against poverty back by decades, Oxfam warned today as it published a new report showing that the number of billionaires worldwide has more than doubled since the financial crisis.
The report, Even it Up: Time to End Extreme Inequality, details how the richest people in the world have more money than they could spend in several lifetimes while hundreds of millions live in abject poverty. The richest 85 people - who Oxfam revealed in January have the same wealth as the poorest half of the world's population - saw their collective wealth increase by $668 million every day over the last year. That's almost half a million dollars every minute.
Oxfam is calling on governments around the world to Even it Up by taking action to level the playing field by implementing policies that redistribute money and power to ensure the poor benefit more directly. Governments should follow a seven point plan to stem the rising tide of inequality - including clamping down on tax dodging and investing in universal, free health and education.
Pope urges activists to struggle against 'structural causes' of poverty
Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service
Pope Francis urged an international gathering of grassroots social activists to struggle against the "structural causes" of poverty and inequality, with a "revolutionary" program drawn from the Gospels.
"The poor no longer wait, they seek to be protagonists, they organize, study, work, demand and, above all, practice that special solidarity that exists among those who suffer, among the poor," the pope said Tuesday to a Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Popular Movements.
The pope said solidarity entails struggling "against the structural causes of poverty, inequality, the lack of work, land and shelter, the denial of social and labor rights," and confronting what he called the "empire of money."
As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality (inequidad) is the root of social ills