Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Rolling out income management in the Northern Territory

A new tool to help ensure parents are providing their children with the necessities of life is now available across the Northern Territory.

As part of the Australian Government’s roll out of non-discriminatory income management across the Territory, we have introduced child protection income management. This means Territory Government child protection workers can now refer parents to Centrelink for compulsory income management when children are being neglected or are at risk of neglect.

Under child protection income management seventy per cent of parents’ welfare payments are set aside to be spent in the best interest of their children – on the necessities of life such as food and clothing.

In 2008-2009, Indigenous children in the Northern Territory were six times more likely than other Australian children to be the subject of a substantiation of a notification of abuse and neglect.

Substantiations for Indigenous children in the Northern Territory were most likely to reflect neglect (43.4 per cent), followed by physical abuse (25.9 per cent) and emotional abuse (23.6 per cent).

In 2009-10, there were 294 confirmed incidents of child abuse in the prescribed communities under the Northern Territory Emergency Response. Of these, 72 per cent were in the category of child welfare which relates to issues that would generally be considered to be child neglect.

The roll out of non-discriminatory income management is continuing across the Territory.

Implementation of the new non-discriminatory income management commenced on 9 August 2010 in the Barkly region and rollout continued in Alice Springs, Katherine and remote areas including East Arnhem Land from 30 August 2010. The new model commenced in the remaining outback areas on 20 September and in Darwin and Palmerston and immediate surrounds on 4 October 2010.

The new non-discriminatory model of income management aims to provide financial stability to people who are vulnerable or at risk of harmful behaviour. Income management works by ensuring that income support and family assistance payments are spent on necessities, including food, housing, utilities, clothing, and medical care.

The new model is targeted to all people who are likely to benefit from income management, with exemptions available for full-time students, people with a sustained history of workforce participation, and parents who can demonstrate proper care and education of their children.

Most current income management customers will have transitioned to the new system by the end of this year.

As part of the new system, people can also voluntarily sign up to be income managed.

Under the new income management model, people who voluntarily participate in income management are eligible for an incentive of $250 at the end of each six months that they participate as an added encouragement to budget and save.

Matched savings incentives are also available to help those on compulsory income management better manage their money.

The new Northern Territory model will be rigorously evaluated and will help inform the future roll-out of income management in other parts of Australia.