$53m Federal government welfare scheme helps only ONE person
(By its own criteria). Is this a record for bureaucratic waste?
ONLY one person has received the full $500 available under the Gillard government's $53 million matched savings scheme for welfare recipients launched last July.
Welfare advocates say the savings scheme has failed because it is unrealistic to expect people struggling to survive to put any of their limited money away.
To receive the payment, which matches savings dollar for dollar up to $500, those on income management must complete a money management course and show a pattern of saving for a minimum of 13 weeks. Centrelink quarantines the money, available only to those whose income is managed.
It is a successor to the scheme introduced in the 73 indigenous communities subject to the NT Emergency Intervention. The new scheme, funded for four years, has been expanded to those on welfare in the rest of the Northern Territory, and will be introduced to the rest of the country.
Between July 1 and December 31, 102 people entered the scheme, and of these 53 completed the money management course, 36 were still doing it and 12 had dropped out. To date only one person has successfully completed both requirements and received a full matched savings payment.
Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin said this would increase with the number of applicants still in the program.
At a Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs workshop with financial counsellors this month, it is understood concerns were raised about the progress of the schemes.
Ms Macklin said the matched savings payment was an incentive for welfare recipients on compulsory income management to improve their money management skills, encourage positive savings and increase their capacity to set aside money for major expenses and purchases.
"The initiative is one of several financial counselling and money management services that are available to people on income management to help them manage their money," she said.
But National Welfare Rights Network president Maree O'Halloran said there was a serious policy misconception that people on low incomes could not budget effectively. "Nothing could be further from the truth," she said. "In fact, the opposite is true. People on low incomes are excellent money managers - they have to be.
"The Matched Savings Account appears to be yet another one of the government's income management-linked policies that, it seems, is untried, untested and unpopular.
"The revelation of a next-to-zero take up comes as no surprise to Welfare Rights. The scheme is both complex and misguided. It fails to recognise the reality of such low levels of payments and the proven levels of deprivation that social security recipients experience. "Even among the most thrifty and frugal there is limited capacity to save."
Ms O'Halloran said the government was disingenuous in promoting the scheme, as the limited capacity to save meant few people would be able to take advantage of the payment of $500.
"People with full-time jobs would have difficulty saving the suggested amount in the government propaganda about the scheme, but to expect a person to save $500 from funds that are income managed is laughable."