Our most vulnerable don’t neatly fit into ‘streamlined’ welfare services

Released on 27th February 2015

cohealth questions whether attempts to “streamline” Australia’s welfare system will leave our most vulnerable sicker and more isolated.

While cohealth’s Chief Executive, Lyn Morgain, welcomed the worthy goal of reform and simplification, she cautioned against undue focus on the individual.

“People’s capacity to work is often about the broader context of their lives – such as their mental health, where they live, whether they are experiencing homelessness, have a disability or are victims of family violence,” Ms Morgain said.

“If we are serious about improving employment and health outcomes for people – and they are both deeply interconnected – then we need to reform the educational, training and employment
pathways for all groups of people, whether they be mothers returning to work, or the people we see: the sick, the poor and those experiencing multiple forms of disadvantage.

“As a society we continue to see vast shifts in employment patterns and a restructuring of the labour market – this means increasing casualization of the workforce, a reduction in blue collar jobs and rising unemployment.

“cohealth actively supports people to find work because we know unemployment is bad for your health – particularly for those unemployed due to health reasons, and those with poor social networks[1].

“We are glad to hear that “many” people would be better off under the proposed system, our concern is for those who may be adversely affected by the proposed tightened eligibility criteria – such as those under 22 years of age in a market of 14% youth unemployment, and those who experience episodic mental health illness. We need to ensure that equity and fairness are not lost the reform process.

“We therefore welcome Social Services Minister Scott Morrison’s commitment to further engage with the community to help shape reforms to the sector.

“Income support for those out of work should remain as the safety net it was originally intended to be.

[1] Norström F, Virtanen P, Hammarström A , Gustafsson P,Janlert U. (2014). How does unemployment affect self-assessed health? A systematic review
focusing on subgroup effects. BMC Public Health 2014: 1310.

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