In 2013 the Federal Government commissioned a review of Australia’s welfare sector and the final report was released today.
Known colloquially as the McClure Report, as it was conducted by former Mission Australia head Patrick McClure, it has a range of recommendations aimed at simplifying the welfare system and getting more people into the workforce.
For people on the Disability Support Pension with a severe or permanent disability, the report recommends ‘a supported living pension.’ The rules would be tighter for this payment – only those with a disability expected to last more than five years would be eligible.
For others with some capacity to work, the report recommends moving onto a ‘working age payment’ which would have a tiered level of payment with higher rates for people depending on their disability and how much they could work or study.
Mr McClure was at pains to stress that “no individual moving from the old system to the new system will experience a reduction in their rate of payment”.
The report also calls for government to step up on their employment of people with disability and mental health conditions and for a more extensive jobs package to help people get into work.
The Minister responsible, Scott Morrison, welcomed the report but has not said if the government will implement it, claiming it is being considered as part of decisions for the next Budget in May.
Addressing the National Press Club today, the Minister also called for an upgrade of the government’s IT system, saying it was clunky and out of date, making any meaningful reform to welfare difficult without an overhaul of the infrastructure that delivers it.
The president of People with Disability Australia, Craig Wallace, cautiously welcomed the report’s recommendations on jobs but had some concerns about the tighter eligibility rules.
Mr Wallace urged the Government not to ‘cherry-pick’ the report by adopting recommendations which relate to income support savings and ignoring those which relate to building a disability and mental health jobs plan. He said this time the obligations must be mutual and the focus on incentives not penalties.
Cassandra Goldie, head of the Australian Council of Social Services, also expressed concerns about the report.
“For people of working age, four income support payment levels instead of three is neither simpler or fairer; and four definitions of disability is likely to be unworkable. To this end, we urge the Government to design a simpler model than that proposed in the Report, which is founded on the principles of adequacy, consistency and fairness.”