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