Mission Australia has responded to proposed changes to our federal welfare system tabled by the government yesterday.

Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans says that the punitive reforms will push already vulnerable people into poverty and increase stigma around addiction.

“People receiving welfare payments are often barely surviving on seriously inadequate payments. The demerit system will cut off people’s already meagre income for up to four weeks, leaving them with no way to cover basic costs like rent, bills and food.

“The impact on families and children could be severe – by cutting their income, entire families could be pushed into further poverty and into homelessness.

“Most concerning is the unacceptable impact that these measures will have on people who already have challenging and complex lives.

“The government’s targeting of people with drug and alcohol addiction issues is not only disrespectful but a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of substance misuse. Our experience shows that if people are given the opportunity to seek treatment and develop their skills in regards to further education and employment, they grasp it with both hands. Currently these services are just not there for those with complex needs.

“What’s most hard to swallow is that the government are telling us that they’re doing it for the good of the people targeted by these reforms but we know that support, not punishment, is what’s needed to help people who face real barriers to searching for jobs.

“Mission Australia stands ready to support people in need, but we also believe it is the role of government to provide an adequate safety net for all Australians, particularly the most vulnerable among us.”

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