Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Income management is improving lives in Western Australia

An independent evaluation has shown the Australian Government’s trial of child protection and voluntary income management in Perth and the Kimberley is having a positive impact on the wellbeing of children and families in Western Australia.

Since November 2008, the Australian Government, in cooperation with the Western Australian Government, has been trialling compulsory income management in cases of child neglect. Under the trial, the Department of Child Protection can refer people to Centrelink for income management to help ensure that children are being properly cared for.

In addition, people living in the trial areas are able to volunteer for income management to assist them to improve their budgeting and money management skills.

The evaluation shows income management is helping to improve the lives of families in Western Australia by ensuring welfare is spent where it is intended – on the essentials of life and in the best interests of children.

Sixty-one per cent of child protection income management participants and 67 per cent of voluntary income management participants surveyed thought that income management had made their children’s lives better.

While on income management participants reported spending more money on fresh food and clothing.

Participants also reported that income management helped them get their lives in order. Seventy-one per cent of people on child protection income management and 80 per cent of people on voluntary income management reported they were able to regularly save money and were less likely to run out of money to pay rent and bills.

After participating in income management, the percentage of people on child protection income management who were able to save money rose from 51 per cent to 70 per cent.

Two thirds of people on child protection income management said they had recommended or would recommend income management to others because of the positive impact it can have on people’s lives.

Eighty-two per cent of people on voluntary income management said they had recommended or would recommend income management to others.

During the survey period between November 2008 and April 2010, 1,131 people participated in the trial – 328 clients under the child protection measure and 803 clients through voluntary income management. .

As at 24 September 2010, 244 people were participating in child protection income management and 457 people were participating in voluntary income management.

The Western Australian income management trial is supported by 16 Commonwealth financial counselling organisations and six money management services. A recent expansion of services has increased the number of financial counselling positions supporting people on income management from 3 to 12 and around 50 additional Kimberley Regions will receive outreach money management services.

The independent evaluation involved face-to-face interviews with current and past income management participants, focus group discussions with community leaders in the Kimberley region and online surveys of staff from Centrelink, the Western Australia Department for Child Protection and money management and financial counselling service providers.

The evaluation, commissioned by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and supported by the Western Australia Department of Child Protection, was undertaken by ORIMA Research from 21 June to 5 August 2010.

The evaluation report can be found at the FaHCSIA website.