Aside from IR, the big issue Cabinet will be discussing today is welfare reform. A single payment, which I support, is still too difficult according to Minister Kevin Andrews. One reason might be, as the Fin reported yesterday, that there is no portfolio of Social Security anymore, and responsibility for policy and payments is now split among five departments and five Ministers. Let’s hope they’ve got that whole of government thing happening well. It’d be nice as well to see the issues of disincentives to work addressed, and as I’ve argued before, great to see the many government benefits which proliferated again in the last election dealt with other than as proliferating inequities and confusions in the tax system.
One under-noticed aspect of the welfare reforms that are already in train is that major responsibility for assistance to people applying for the DSP is mooted to be transferred to job network agencies. Many people on DSP suffer from mental illnesses, although the perception in the media is that it’s all blokes in their 50s with crook backs. There are so many negative reports about the performance of job network agencies, and indeed of the qualifications and professionalism of some of their employees, that I really hope that this is done properly. In effect, what we’re about to see is a second round of outsourcing of welfare services to profit-making and not-for-profit organisations. This has only been noted in the media through reporting of statements by Employment Services Minister Peter Dutton, but has yet to be put in its proper context of a fairly sweeping privatisation and outsourcing of welfare ane employment services. This deserves more debate than it’s currently attracting.
ELSEWHERE: Andrew Bartlett writes passionately about mental illness and the DSP reforms.