Media Release by The Hon Kate Ellis MP

New approaches to address disadvantage in targeted communities

Joint Media Release with:

  • Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
  • Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations
  • Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for Human Services

The Gillard Government will promote long term economic participation in some of the nation’s most disadvantaged communities.

Across Australia there are disadvantaged communities who are missing out on the benefit of the growing economy and the opportunities it brings.

The Gillard Government will implement a new approach to disadvantage in the 2011-12 Budget that includes initiatives that will help people living in communities with high rates of entrenched disadvantage such as families with young children and the long-term unemployed.  In particular, the Gillard Government wants to tackle the challenge of intergenerational welfare dependence.

Targeting these new initiatives in specific locations will concentrate our resources to find new local solutions.

The Gillard Government will always provide a safety net for those in need, but wants all Australians to have the opportunity to share in our nation’s prosperity.

Helping teenage parents to finish school and support their children

The Government will invest $47 million over four years to trial new measures to make sure that teenage parents finish school and support their children.

These measures will be trialled in ten disadvantaged communities across Australia:

  • Playford (SA)
  • Hume (Vic)
  • Shepparton (Vic)
  • Burnie (Tas)
  • Bankstown (NSW)
  • Wyong (NSW)
  • Shellharbour (NSW)
  • Rockhampton (Qld)
  • Logan (Qld)
  • Kwinana (WA)

Services will be centred and coordinated around a key Centrelink Service Centre in each location.

From 1 January 2012, teenage parents in trial communities receiving Parenting Payment, with a child aged six months or older, will be required to attend compulsory support and engagement interviews with Centrelink until they complete Year 12 or equivalent or until their youngest child turns six.

Through this service, parents will work with Centrelink to develop a participation plan that includes compulsory activities designed to support them in their parenting role or help them gain a good education.

Teen parents will be required to undertake compulsory activities from when their child is one year old, to give teen parents time to settle into life with their new baby.

These teen parents will also be given support to help them meet these extra responsibilities and milestones, including:

  • Support through the Jobs Education Training Child Care Fee Assistance program to access quality child care while they are studying or training with close to 100 per cent of their child care costs covered;
  • Support from Youth Connections services through individualised case management to help them enrol and attend school, TAFE or other training;
  • Support from expanded Communities for Children services to help teens with their parenting responsibilities through playgroups, parenting education classes, mentoring and support groups as well as early learning programs; and
  • Training places delivered through a National Partnership with states and territories.

If they do not engage with Centrelink when required, without a reasonable excuse, they will have their income support payment suspended until they re-engage.

Participants will be back-paid for any withheld income support payments if they re-engage.

Helping jobless families prepare for work

From 1 July 2012, new participation requirements and matching supports will be introduced for jobless families in the ten disadvantaged communities.

Parents who have been on income support for more than two years, or who are under 23 years of age and are not currently working and studying fully time will be required to meet regularly with Centrelink through interviews and workshops to plan for their return to work.

At these interviews, specially trained staff will help parents get ready for work by encouraging them to set employment goals, providing information on local education and training opportunities and connecting them with local job, child care and early intervention services.

To ensure these families are supported they will also be able to access the expanded Communities for Children services and will benefit from the extension of the Jobs Education Training Child Care Fee Assistance program from 26 weeks to 52 weeks. This means that eligible parents will have access to affordable child care while they are working or getting work ready.

This trial in ten communities will cost $71 million and be evaluated over two years in consultation with service providers.

If parents do not engage with Centrelink when required, without a reasonable excuse, they will have their income support payment suspended until they re-engage.  Participants will be back-paid for any withheld income support payments if they re-engage.

Extension of income management in five trial sites

To help ensure welfare payments are spent in the best interests of children, the Australian Government is providing $117.5 million over five years to introduce targeted income management in five of the ten trial communities.

The five communities are:

  • Playford (SA)
  • Shepparton (Vic)
  • Bankstown (NSW)
  • Rockhampton (Qld)
  • Logan (Qld)

Income management ensures that money is available for life essentials like food, clothing and housing, and provides a tool to stabilise people’s lives and ease immediate financial stress. Stabilising dysfunctional families is an important step to removing the barriers to participation in community and work.

In these communities from 1 July 2012, income management will apply to vulnerable families and individuals including:

  • Parents referred for income management by state or territory child protection authorities;
  • People assessed by Centrelink social workers as being vulnerable to financial crisis which could include people referred by housing authorities who at risk of homelessness due to rental arrears; and
  • People who volunteer for income management.

This is a similar approach to the model of income management operating in Western Australia since late 2008.

Under voluntary and vulnerable income management, 50 per cent of income support payments are set aside for spending on essential items, while 70 per cent of income support is quarantined under child protection income management.

New support services to help people develop financial literacy and better manage the family budget will also be available to help families on income management get their lives back on track.

Income management is currently operating in various trial locations across metropolitan Perth and the Kimberley in Western Australia, on Cape York in Queensland and across the Northern Territory.

A 2010 evaluation of people participating in the Western Australian trial found most respondents said that income management had improved their lives and those of their families.

Local Solutions Fund

The Government is delivering $38.2 million over four years to support innovative local programs to boost engagement and workforce participation in the ten disadvantaged Australian communities.

As part of the new Community Innovation Through Collaboration initiative, the Government is providing $25 million for a Local Solutions Fund for community organisations to deliver programs that will assist families and individuals access the services they need to fully participate in educational and employment options.

Another $13.2 million is also being provided for Service Coordinators and Community Based Facilitators in the ten locations to ensure local services are delivered effectively across all participatory programs and services.

The primary focus will be on giving communities a say – making sure organisations that assist disadvantaged Australians are actively involved in developing and delivering local solutions that address the limitations of existing services.

Funded projects will be based on the advice of local communities and could include for example:

  • Transport services for jobseekers to attend interviews in communities with  poor public transport;
  • Mentoring and practical support for jobless teenage parents, to help them into study or work;
  • Creation of new “social enterprise” businesses that will give job seekers a start in the workforce.

Supporting job seekers in disadvantaged communities into jobs

The Australian Government will provide $4.7 million over three years to run pilot projects designed to improve employment services to job seekers with multiple disadvantages, including those with a lack of recent work experience, mental health issues, drug and alcohol dependency and homelessness.

These pilot projects will be designed and delivered by Job Services Australia providers selected on the basis of demonstrated high performance in the provision of employment services to job seekers with multiple disadvantages.

These projects will assist up to 5,000 highly disadvantaged job seekers to find work.

In addition, the Government is also extending the successful Priority Employment Area initiative with $45.2 million, including $20 million in a flexible funding pool over two years to support new initiatives in these areas. In these regions Local Employment Coordinators will continue to work closely with employers, employment services and local communities as well as all levels of government to help drive local solutions to local labour market problems

This will mean Local Employment Coordinators and Jobs and Skills Expos will continue until 2013.

In addition, and building on the success of the last two years, a minimum of 40 Jobs and Skills expos will also be delivered across Australia to help connect job seekers with employment and training opportunities.