For anyone who has had some experience with the welfare system in Australia, it’s obvious that there are many improvements which need to be made. Frontline services are under-staffed and under-funded, resulting in an unfair and sometimes unbalanced system. The ‘job-services providers’ do little more than bill the Government and pay lip-service to jobseekers; meanwhile, genuine services are inaccessible to most of Australia’s unemployed.

According to an annual survey of the community sector, conducted by the Australian Council of Social Service, a whopping eighty percent of frontline community services say they are unable to help those who come through their doors. Services for the unemployed and single-parents, as well as other disadvantaged citizens, are being turned away in droves. So much for the ‘safety net’, huh?

The survey returned significant findings which help gain a better understanding of the crisis within the welfare system and society at large: nearly fifty percent of low-income services reported that they were unable to cope with demand; seventy two percent of legal services experienced a similar problem; and fifty one percent of accommodation services turned desperate people away. All in all, the welfare system seems to be failing those who most need assistance.

About a thousand participants took place in the survey, which centralised its focus on the unemployed and single parent families. Stunningly, a paltry twenty percent of these social services claimed they were able to meet the demand. The remainder, as outlined above, felt as though the system was erring.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, ACOSS chief Cassandra Goldie noted the climate of cost-cutting and the general atmosphere of animosity towards the idea of welfare: “From the coalface of community work, our findings are deeply concerning and should ring alarm bells for federal government policies that would inflict deeper pain on the people doing it toughest in our community. Despite the urgent need for these services in our community, they have been subjected to federal funding cuts and ongoing funding uncertainty.”

When asked about the Coalition Government’s unpopular suite of cuts to welfare (including a denial of payments to those under thirty), Dr. Goldie was plain and direct: “The federal government needs to go back to the drawing board.” And given the findings of the ACOSS survey, it seems like the most diplomatic way of telling the Government something’s wrong.


 

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