Income management coming to a place near you: Bankstown, Sydney

By Eva Cox

Women are more likely than men to need Government income support. In particular, solo women with young children may be out of paid work as suitable jobs and good employers are rare.

In March this year, there were around 80,000 parents on the parenting payment officially registered as job hunters. There are maybe another 50,000 or more sole parents who have already been placed onto Newstart as their children are eight or more. They will be joined shortly by most of the 80,000 job seekers above, as announced in the budget. Managing on the sole parent payments is already hard, but doing it on the lower rate of Newstart is almost impossible.

So any changes to policies on these payments is of interest to feminists. From July 1st, people on certain types of benefits living in 5 identified local government areas (Bankstown, Logan, Shepparton, Playford and Rockhampton) may be subject to some forms of Income Management (IM). They will join benefit recipients in the NT, WA and Cape York as subjects (or objects) of Centrelink control of at least half their government income. You can read more about the impact of IM in the NT in ANTaR’s A Better Way publication.

Income management – not so progressive.

Bankstown is standing up. You can attend a seminar on the issue on this Saturday May 26th @ 1pm at the Arab Council Australia, 194 Stacey Street, near Bankstown station. F members will be attending, so get in touch if you want to meet up.

The Bankstown SAYNO to income management group gives their reasons:

Income Management:

  • Shames people who can’t choose where to shop and what to buy
  • Treats adults like silly children
  • Cannot show that it has helped families in the Northern Territory or Western
  • Australia
  • Stop Centrelink experimenting on our local residents – stop this unfair policy!

The five areas listed will now be subject to an extension of the NT intervention version of IM that was tried in 73 Aboriginal communities. All the above programs have had some level of evaluation but none have shown any clear benefits for participants. This lack of evidence that IM works raises questions of why the government is continuing the existing programs and, more puzzling, why expand them.

The new five areas program expands the models to new communities with high levels of other disadvantaged groups. It is obviously a pilot for a general extension nationally, as there is no other explanation of the costs and efforts being expended. The five programs offer Voluntary IM where people may be offered or pressured to sign on, and compulsory IM for those Centrelink deems as ‘vulnerable’. ‘Vulnerable’ is defined as not adequately managing their (inadequate) income, or maybe suffering DV and pressure from a partner. There is also a compulsory child protection version for those referred by some state or other agency.

Sole parents are likely to be targeted in the new extended program because the government believes controlling their incomes will push them into paid work. An Equal Rights Alliance survey in the NT showed 85% of 180 respondents objected to being on the BasicsCard and many felt shamed and that they lacked control. It restricts how people shop. It is the big supermarkets in Bankstown that have signed on to accept the BasicsCard, not local shops, stalls at markets, specialist ethnic outlets, second hand places or even many chemists.

Read more about the campaign, endorsees and what you can do here. Join the Facebook group here.

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