The federal government should prioritise funding for place-based and wrap-around services to help people living in entrenched disadvantage, says a parliamentary committee.
While most Australians are able to get back on their feet quickly when presented with a challenge, “for some, the need for welfare ends up being long-term, and the impact on their wellbeing can be dire”, notes the final report of the Select Committee on Intergenerational Welfare Dependence.
Around 700,000 Australians are considered to be “living on the edge”.
“Supporting them into better circumstances will strengthen Australia,” says the report tabled on Friday.
“Targeted assistance for families receiving long-term welfare support must address individual needs and local challenges.
“A true turn-around in circumstances will depend on the government of the day prioritising change and committing to reviewing, evolving and improving programs that address entrenched disadvantage.”
The committee, chaired by Liberal MP Russell Broadbent, identified several factors increasing the risk of entrenched disadvantage:
- Geographic location (accessibility/remoteness);
- Educational attainment;
- Indigenous status;
- Single parent status;
- Suitability of available employment;
- Health and family welfare; and
- Availability of appropriate support systems.
State and federal governments should avoid short-term funding cycles and work together to “ensure immediate increases in funding for emergency relief housing and ongoing low cost housing throughout Australia”, argues the report.
Place-based and wrap-around services are “essential” in delivering successful programs, the committee argues.
“A place-based approach reflects an understanding of the community, and local circumstances,” says the report.
“Targeted, wrap-around support services are also essential, especially in engaging children and families where barriers to education and employment are complex.”
The committee considers there are several steps that can be taken to implement effective welfare programs:
- Long-term flexible funding;
- Improved data and evaluation;
- Coordinated funding;
- Building community capacity; and
- Strategic government leadership.
There were also “inspiring examples” of innovation in welfare programs shared with the committee, such as the Logan Together initiative in Queensland, and the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY) run by the Brotherhood of St Laurence.
“These programs demonstrate the benefits of place-based, tailored, coordinated services that help people by supporting them at critical or key life stages,” reads the report.
“They provided transferrable learnings that can help other families and communities in overcoming disadvantage.”