Browsing articles in "disability"
Sunday 3rd January 2016 - 5:21 pm
Comments Off on Row emerges over child care costs

Row emerges over child care costs

by Alan Thornhill



Child care costs are emerging as an early starter in the campaign for the Federal election due late this year.


There are good reasons for that.



Strategists on all sides of Australian politics know that there are few issues likely to raise stronger passions than the financial assistance governments give families to help them with the costs of raising their children.
The government made its bid for voter support on the issue at the weekend, when the Federral Minister for Education and Training, Senator  Simon Birmingham, announced that it could save taxpayers $7.7 million a week, by closing gaps in Australia’s present child care laws.



He said new measures introduced by the Turnbull Government to crackdown on non-compliance  by child care operators’  would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year.


This would ensure that ensure child care becomes  more affordable, more accessible and fairer for Australian families than the laws left by Labor.


That would make child care  more affordable, more accessible and fairer for Australian families.


But  Labor dismissed these claims as nothing more than empty talk,


The Shadow Minister for Early Childhood, Kate Ellis. said new figures have shown that Australian families will continue to pay the cost of the Turnbull Government’s inadeqacies on this issue.


The  government s ” full of talk”  but  takes no action, when it comes to stopping child care fee increases, Ms Ellis said.


She said the new figures confirm that some families will still  be hit by child care fees of $200 “even as we see a 14 per cent increase in fees.”



The proposed child care reforms will effect in 2017, Ms Ellis said.


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Tuesday 26th May 2015 - 8:10 am
Comments Off on Joe’s attack on NATSEM misfires

Joe’s attack on NATSEM misfires

by Alan Thornhill

Labor will press its attack on the fairness of the Federal budget in parliament, after an attempt to discredit the report, on which it was based, was swept aside early today.

The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, tried to discredit the report, at question time in Parliament yesterday, by suggesting that it was nothing more than a two page document – written by a Labor staffer.

But Labor has now countered that suggestion, by releasing the full report it had commissioned – from highly respected National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling – early today.

The Labor leader, Bill Shorten, had based his attack on the fairness of the budget – at question time yesterday – on the NATSEM report.

Government members had then responded vigorously, demanding that the report be released in full.

(Its main conclusions had been published in several newspapers yesterday).

“Release it,” they cried.

Mr Hockey was questioned again on the report, when he appeared on the ABC television program Q&A last night.

He said, then, that he had still not seen the full report.

Mr Hockey was also questioned closely on the program about whether he is “double dipping” by claiming a living away from home allowance, of $270 a night, for staying in a house, owned by his wife, while in Canberra. (See earlier story).

Mr Hockey also agreed – on the program – to lobby states to ditch GST on tampons, sanitary items.

He did so in response to a student who had questioned him on the subject.

The NATSEM report, released – early today – backs Labor’s attack on the fairness of the budget.

It found that the poorest 20 per cent of Australian families will pay $1.1 billion more into government coffers than the richest households, as a result of the budget.

This highlights a huge inequity in the government’s four-year blueprint for fiscal repair.

The NATSEM report also reveals how heavily the burden of budget consolidation has fallen on those less well-off, especially if they have school-age children.

It divides the community into five segments or quintiles, each with a little over 2.5 million families.

NATSEM reported that the poorest 20 per cent – those with $35,000 or less in disposable annual income – will forgo $2.9 billion over four years as a result of to changes to family benefits, pensions and other payments.

By contrast, the wealthiest 20 per cent of- earning $88,000 or more after tax and benefits – will suffer a $1.78 billion hit.

That is some 40 per cent lighter than the lowest income families.

Overall, those in the lowest quintile will see incomes fall by an average of almost 2.2 per cent while those in the highest quintilea face a decline of only 0.2 per cent.

Tuesday 28th April 2015 - 11:40 am
Comments Off on Pushing stay at home mums out to “work”

Pushing stay at home mums out to “work”

by Alan Thornhill


Are stay-at-home mums about to be classified – effectively – as leaners, not lifters?

That idea would have horrified old-style Liberal traditionalists, like Bob Menzies.

Yet pre-budget leaks suggest that the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, is seriously considering something very like that.

An activity test, to be specific.

A test requiring 24 hours paid work a fortnight – or a similar commitment to work related studies.

Those who fail might well find their benefits – and child-care entitlements – cut.

And that’s not all.

The government is also, reportedly, considering a $250 million trial program, that would boost the flexibility of present child-care arrangements, by providing subsidised nannies, to families deemed to need them.

Those with shift workers, like nurses and police are being mentioned, in this context.

So, despite the Prime Minister’s promise, next month’s Federal budget might not be so dull, after all.

These are touchy topics.

And the government’s media minders are already dusting off their flack jackets.

The ABC, which has had a lot to say on these subjects, reports that the Government’s “earn or learn” ethos is likely to be extended to childcare subsidies in the upcoming budget.

This would force parents on welfare to show they are working or studying before they get benefits.

The national broadcaster reports, too, that daycare providers say the proposed “activity test” could cost 100,000 lower income families benefits and are urging the Government to guarantee all families can access at least two days subsidised care, regardless of their circumstances.

The government describes that as an exaggeration.

The ABC is also reporting that nannies will be subsidised by the Federal Government under a $250 million trial program targeting families who cannot access “mainstream” childcare services.

Tuesday 21st April 2015 - 11:50 am
Comments Off on ‘Stop attacking the poor” government urged

‘Stop attacking the poor” government urged

by Alan Thornhill

Labor and the Greens are urging the Federal government to dump policies which hurt the poor, in the light of a new report.

The report, by the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, estimates that 1.4 million Australians are trapped in “entrenched disadvantage” through poverty.

Yet Jenny Macklin, Labor’s spokesman on families and payments, says:”Tony Abbott wants to cut family payments by $5.5 billion, pensions by $23 billion and force young job seekers to go without any support at all for six months.

“Ripping support away from poor people is bad social policy and bad economic policy,” Ms Macklin said.

She urged the Federal government to “stop attacking vulnerable Australians.”

Meanwhile Green Senator, Rachel Siewert, said:“It is a national shame that over a million Australians are now living in poverty despite clear economic growth over the last 24 years.

“This is not a case of limited resources, it is a case of limited political will to address the issue by Government.”

Senator Siewert is the Greens spokesperson on Community Services.

So far, the government has not replied to these attacks.

CEDA’s report, published today, lists the main causes of poverty in Australia.

It called the report “Addressing Entrenched Disadvantage in Australia.”

All the usual suspects made an appearance.

The report said entrenched poverty particularly affects:-

* Older people

* The less well educated

* Households with no member employed

* Indigenous Australians and

* Those with chronic health conditions.

Published just weeks before this year’s Federal budget,the report found that between 4 and 6 per cent of Australians live in poverty.

CEDA is urging the Federal government to “tear up the rule book” to tackle the problem.

Stephen Martin, its Chief Executive, said it is “a disgrace” that the lives of so many Australians are afflicted in this way.

“This is as much an economic issue as it is a social one,” Professor Martin said.

The report recommends:-

* Improvements to early intervention programs to minimise hospital admissions for those with mental health issues

* Targeting parents as well as children to curb intergenerational poverty and

* Ending discrimination against Aborigines in the job market.
found that between 4 and 6 per cent of Australians live in poverty.

CEDA is urging the Federal government to “tear up the rule book” to tackle the problem.

Professor Martin said it is “a disgrace” that the lives of so many Australians are affected in this way.

“This is as much an economic issue as it is a social one,” Professor Martin said.

Sunday 12th April 2015 - 8:04 pm
Comments Off on Poverty “rising” in Australia:ACOSS

Poverty “rising” in Australia:ACOSS

by Alan Thornhill

Poverty levels are rising in Australia, according to a new report.

Cassandra Goldie, Chief Executive Officer of the peak welfare group, the Australian Council of Social Service, says that’s unacceptable in a wealthy country like ours, after 20 years of economic growth.

The report, called Poverty in Australia 2014, was prepared by ACOSS.

It found that 2.55 million Australians – including 603,000 children – now live in poverty.

The report was the third in a series on poverty, that ACOSS began producing in 2007.

It uses two standards to identify and measure poverty.

The more severe concludes that people are in poverty if they are living on less than half the median income in Australia.

The median level, for the broad community, is the mid-point in Australian incomes.

That is the point at which half of the community gets more and half gets less.

This definition puts the poverty line for a single adult at $400 per week.

For a couple with 2 children it was $841 per week.

The less severe standard was set at 60 per cent of median incomes.

The latest ACOSS report estimates that the risk of poverty increased from 13 per cent in 2010 to 13.9 per cent in 2012.

It notes that we don’t do so well on international comparisons, either.

The OECD, which is often called “the rich nations’ club, found that poverty levels in Australia are about one third higher than the average for all of its members.

So who, exactly, are we talking about?

The ACOSS report produces no surprises, there.

It tells the story of poverty in Australia in 2011-12.

It noted that while median incomes continued to increase, a substantial proportion of the population was locked out of paid employment.

Youth unemployment was particularly high.

And it said that it remained difficult for people who were more disadvantaged in the labour market, to gain a foothold in the employment market.

These included Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people with a disability and the long term unemployed.

ACOSS said that – importantly – its report includes stories and written text from those who experience poverty as part of their day to day lives.

That’s because “ultimately poverty is about the real experiences of those who are in it,” ACOSS added.

It concluded “In 2012, one in seven people, including one in six children, lived below the most austere poverty line widely used in international research.”

That is 50 per cent of median income.

Tuesday 31st March 2015 - 2:53 pm
Comments Off on The changing causes of death in Australia

The changing causes of death in Australia

by Alan Thornhill

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in Australia, accounting for almost 20,000 deaths in 2013.

However the Bureau of Statistics reports that Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease now take second place.

The Bureau’s James Eynstone-Hinkins said:”deaths from Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have been increasing in number for many years.”

He said they have now passed Cerebrovascular diseases as the second leading cause of death of Australians.

(The term Cerebrovascular disease refers to a group of conditions that affect the circulation of blood to the brain, causing limited or no blood flow to affected areas of the brain).

Mr Eynstone-Hinkins said: “There were 11,000 deaths from Dementia and Alzheimer’s in 2013, an increase of over five per cent in the past year and over 30 percent in the past five years.

“Cancer deaths have also outnumbered deaths from circulatory diseases for the first time in 2013,” Mr Eynstone-Hinkins said.

“There were over 8,000 Australians who died from lung cancer in 2013, a 13 per cent increase since 2004.

“Colon cancer, blood cancers, prostate, breast, pancreatic and skin cancers were all among Australia’s 20 leading causes of death,” he added.

The Bureau’s report also found there were more male deaths than female deaths in 2013 – 75,782 and 71,896 respectively – and some key differences in leading causes.

“There were 4,995 male deaths from lung cancer, making this the second leading cause for men.” Mr Eynstone-Hinkins said.

“Among females, lung cancer caused 3,222 deaths making it the fifth leading cause.

“Dementia and Alzheimer’s was the second leading cause for females accounting for 7,277 deaths, compared to only 3,656 deaths among males.

“Prostate cancer was the underlying cause of 3,112 male deaths, while breast cancer caused 2,862 female deaths, with both ranked as the sixth leading cause respectively.“

Suicide was once again the leading cause of death for Australian’s aged 15 to 44.

Suicide accounted for 2,520 deaths in 2013 at a standardised death rate of 10.7 per 100,000 people.

Friday 27th March 2015 - 8:04 am
Comments Off on Government backdown welcomed

Government backdown welcomed

by Alan Thornhill

People living needing legal help with problems at Centrelink should be a little more comfortable today, a major welfare organisation says.

Maree O’Halloran, President of the National Welfare Rights Network, says this follows the Federal government’s decision to dump planned cuts to legal aid, which were due to become effective on July 1.

The Attorney General, George Brandis, announced the decision yesterday.

Ms O’Halloran said:”it is a welcome relief that funding cuts will not proceed.

“These cuts would have reduced vital legal services to vulnerable people.”

She said:” Welfare Rights Centres are community legal centres specialising in social security law and its administration by Centrelink.

“We advise people of their rights, entitlements and obligations and assist people through the social security review and appeals system.

“Each year, Welfare Rights caseworkers assist thousands of people with Centrelink problems.

“Welfare Rights services are cost-effective and efficient.”

Ms O’Halloran said member organisations provide casework assistance to their clients.

“They conduct training and education for community workers and produce high quality information and publications to help social security recipients and community organisations understand the system.

“Centrelink staff generally do a good job under trying circumstances but mistakes do happen. Continued funding will enable Welfare Rights workers to assist people to get the right Centrelink payment, and to seek redress when things go wrong.” she added.

“Centrelink receives more complaints than any other Government agency, according to the Commonwealth Ombudsman,” Ms O’Halloran said.

It had 52,763 complaints last financial year.

“The restoration of funding for Legal Aid, Community Legal Centres and Indigenous legal service providers will help to ensure that some of the most vulnerable groups in the community can access the legal support and assistance to get their lives back on track,” Ms O’Halloran said.

“The funding will support people needing assistance in New South Wales, South Australia, Canberra Queensland and Western Australia,” she added.

Friday 13th March 2015 - 9:03 am
Comments Off on Disability funding extended

Disability funding extended

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government is extending funding for several programs that are being moved to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The Assistant Minister for Social Security, Mitch Fifield, said this would extend certainty to thousands of people.

He said the affected: ““Families, carers and children will continue receiving quality care and services.

“…. there will be no interruption as programs migrate to the NDIS,” Senator Fifield said.

The programs affected are:-

• Helping Children with Autism (HCWA)
• Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start)
• Young Carers Respite and Information Service (YCRISP)
• Outside School Hours Care for Teenagers with Disability (OTD)
• Respite Support for Carers of Young People with Severe or Profound Disability (RSCYP)
• National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP)

The extensions will provide around $47 million to service providers across the country.

Senator Fifield also said the Government would extend funding for key support elements of the HCWA package and Better Start initiative through to 30 June 2016.

“This applies to all support elements that have not fully transitioned into NDIS trial sites and are not provided as part of NDIS,” he said.

“As these are extensions to current funding agreements, there is no need for providers to re-apply for funds,” Senator Fifield added.

A funding extension to 30 June 2016 covers the Young Carers Respite and Information Service, Respite Support for Carers of Young People with Severe or Profound Disability (RSCYP), and Outside School Hours Care for Teenagers with Disability (OTD) programmes where providers have not fully transitioned into NDIS trial sites and are delivering services either to young carers, carers of young people with severe or profound disability, or students with permanent and significant disability.

“I have moved to ensure certainty for these critically important programs supporting young carers and those looking after young people who live with disability,” Senator Fifield said.

He also announced funding assurance to current providers of the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP), with a 12-month extension to all agreements.

More than 11,500 people received support through the NDAP in 2013-14.


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Alan Thornhill

Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.

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