Source: The Australian, Monday, November 21, 1994, p.1


Keating urged to overhaul $10.4bn family aid scheme


 
By DON GREENLEES 
 
   A FAR-REACHING 
overhaul of the $10.4 billion 
system of family income 
payments, With the aim of 
increasing assistance to 
families with young children, 
low-income earners and sole 
parents, is at the centre of a 
major report to the Federal 
Government on family 
policy. 
 
   The report from a key 
government advisory body also 
calls for the creation of a 
permanent National Office for 
Family Policy that, under the 
direction of a new Cabinet- 
level minister, would oversee 
and coordinate all federal 
policies affecting families. 
 
   These are among dozens of 
recommendations contained in 
the 280-page report from the 
National Council for the 
International Year of the 
Family, set up to advise the 
Government on the framing of 
a national agenda for families, 
to be released early next year. 
 
   Among the report's major 
recommendations are: 
 
   · Increases in the additional 
family payment, a new child- 
care payment for parents with 
children under six years of age 
and increases in the guardian's 
allowance for sole parents. 
 
   · An expansion of childcare 
aimed at increasing its 
flexibility to better meet the 
needs of parents and help 
disadvantaged and low-income 
families. 
 
   · New minimum national 
standards for paid family leave 
to be enacted in federal 
legislation as part of extensive 
reforms of employment 
conditions to make work places 
more family-friendly. 
 
   · Uniform national laws 
against family violence and to 
protect young people and the 
victims of child abuse, in 
accord with a range of 
international obligations under 
United Nations conventions. 
 
   · Increases in funding for 
public housing and crisis 
accommodation programs and 
better links between family and 
housing policies. 
 
   Other reforms touch on 
coordination of federal-State 
policies affecting the family, 
regional development and 
policies to assist Aborigines 
and Torries Strait Islanders. 
 
   The report spells out a 
comprehensive plan for reform 
across all government 
portfolios that deal with the 
family. 
 
   Describing the welfare of 
families as a "social invest- 
ment", the council calls on fed- 
eral and State Governments to 
make big increases in funding 
for family services and income 
support, tailored especially to 
the needs of low-income and 
disadvantaged households and 
communities. 
 
   "A more socially just 
distribution of resources to 
families and individuals must 
be an essential outcome of 
economic and social 
development," the report says. 
 
   "But this will only occur if 
strong and sustained social 
investment is made in employ- 
ment, education and training, 
affordable housing, redistribu- 
tive family income support 
supportive family and chil- 
dren's services, good and 
sufficient disability services 
and aged care services." 
 
   The 17-member council, 
chaired by University of 
Sydney Professor Bettina Cass, 
is due to officially hand the 
report -Creating the Links: 
Families and Social 
Responsibility-to the 
Minister for Family Services, 
Senator Crowley, on 
Wednesday. The report is the 
major input from outside 
Government into the planned 
Agenda for Families. 
 
Its recommendations, par 
 
ticularly those on income 
support, will dovetail with the 
work of a government review 
to simplify family payments, 
an interdepartmental committee 
and a Cabinet sub-committee 
preparing a package of reforms 
to income support measures in 
next May's Budget. 
 
   On the question of income 
support, the council wants the 
Federal Government to increase 
income support for low- 
income and sole parent families 
through implementation next 
year of the parenting allowance, 
an increase in the guardian 
allowance for sole parents and 
increases in the additional 
family payment. 
 
   It recommends amalgamation 
of the childcare cash rebate and 
the home childcare allowance 
(to be replaced by the parenting 
allowance from next year) into 
a single childcare payment that 
would be paid to families with 
a child aged under six years. 
This non-means tested payment 
would be paid directly to the 
principle carer of children - 
irrespective of whether the carer 
was outside the workforce or in 
part-time or full-time work. 
 
   Over the longer term, the 
childcare payment would be 
increased to a level higher than 
the current home childcare 
allowance. The council also 
wants the Government to 
review payments currently 
made to families with children 
under 16, to identify gaps in 
support and ultimately 
establish a "guaranteed basic 
income" for families 
 
   It has supported government 
moves for a 12-week maternity 
allowance in the next federal 
Budget. This payment is part of 
the Accord Mark 7 deal 
negotiated between the 
Government and ACTU.


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