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INCOME AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT
For the veteran community, service is acknowledged through provision of income support, compensation and rehabilitation, care and commemoration programs.
For communities, engagement is encouraged through partnerships between individuals, families, business, government and welfare and charitable organisations. A strong community sector and high levels of volunteering provide opportunities for individuals to participate in their communities and to engage and support others.
A number of organisations are involved in service delivery. Centrelink delivers services to over 6.5 million customers on behalf of 25 policy agencies. The Family Assistance Office enables families to obtain their family payments in one place, the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) delivers services to the veteran community and the tax system delivers Family Tax Benefits (FTBs), rebates and offsets.
Australia's responses to economic and social change occur within the context of a federal system that has significant redistributive elements and is underpinned by access to core services including health, education and community services, as well as a strong safety net of income support payments. Responses occur in a complex global environment, where individuals may live, work and accrue entitlements in more than one country and international social security agreements share responsibility to close gaps in their social security coverage.
The largest component of welfare is the income support provided by the Australian Government. Over 4.2 million people, or more than one in five individuals, are direct beneficiaries of income support payments at any one time.
Australia's income support system has undergone significant reform in recent years. Welfare reform aims to reduce welfare dependency and promote workforce participation, including part-time employment complemented by ongoing access to some income support. Broadly, the reforms aim to deliver payments to those who are most disadvantaged while encouraging those who can work to do so.
Expenditure on the main income support payments and benefits are listed in table 9.9.
Details of the maximum rates for major income support payments are listed in table 9.10.
Australia's approach for retirement incomes combines an affordable basis for generating retirement incomes with targeted support for those who most need assistance.
As periods out of the workforce, and earlier retirement, can reduce an individual's capacity to save, retirement income policies encourage the retention of older people in the workforce. Policies include raising women's age pension age, raising the minimum age for accessing superannuation benefits, incentives for individuals and families to augment superannuation savings and postpone drawing down, and incentives for workers to stay in the workforce beyond the age pension age. Other initiatives aim to reduce the barriers that mature age people face in continuing working, even though they may be willing and able to do so.
Age Pension is the main form of income support for seniors. Men qualify for Age Pension at 65 years. Women's qualifying age is progressively rising from 60 to 65 years. Women qualify at 63.5 years on 1 July 2007 and will qualify at 65 by 2014. Wife Pension and Widow B Pension closed to new claimants in the 1990s, as these dependency-based payments are at odds with active participation by women of workforce age.
Nearly 80% of seniors receive Age Pension or the equivalent service pension. Age Pension is indexed in line with increases in the cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index, and the maximum single rate of pension is set to at least 25% of Male Average Weekly Earnings. An individual's rate of pension is determined by their income and assets, and from 20 September 2007 the assets test taper rate was halved, allowing many people to receive some pension for the first time.
Age Pension rules encourage pensioners to supplement their income through earnings, while the Pension Bonus Scheme provides incentive for individuals to defer claiming Age Pension while they remain in the workforce. Retirees whose income is too high may be eligible for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
The number of Age Pensioners and the expenditure on Age Pensions is shown in table 9.11.
Aged care policies aim to help people to remain healthy and able to participate in their community. One in four people aged 70 years and over makes some use of aged care. While most remain in their own home and use community care, one in ten uses a residential care facility. In 2007, the Australian Government announced a $1.6 billion (b) package of aged care reforms.
Assessment for aged care
Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACATs) ensure that access to aged care services is based on care needs. Individuals must be assessed as eligible and approved by an ACAT before their care can be subsidised by the Australian Government. In 2006-07 the Australian Government provided $64.8m to state and territory governments for the operation of 115 ACATs, as well as an evaluation unit in each state.
Places and funding
Aged care places are allocated in proportion to the number of people aged 70 years and older. Allocation takes account of people with special needs, including people from Indigenous communities. Table 9.12 shows the number of operational aged care places at 30 June in each of the years from 2003 to 2007. There were 213,504 operational aged care places at 30 June 2007, equating to a ratio of 109.3 places per 1,000 people aged 70 years or older. There were 236,748 places allocated at 30 June 2007. The Australian Government's expenditure on aged care in 2006-07 was $7.7b (this includes expenditure by the DVA on residential aged care).
The Transition Care Program is a jointly funded program that assists older people when they are discharged from hospital. Services include therapy, social work, case management, nursing support and/or personal care. The program helps older people who would otherwise be eligible for residential care to complete their restorative process and optimise their functional capacity, while assisting them and their family or carer to make long-term care arrangements. Transition care can be provided in either a home-like residential setting or in the community.
Care in the community
Most older people want to remain in their own homes as long as possible - close to family and friends, and the shops, churches and activities with which they are familiar. Community care maximises their independence and assists them and their families and carers where necessary through practical support. Assistance with activities of daily life may include, for example, shopping, bathing, dressing, cooking, cleaning, gardening and home maintenance.
Other aged care programs use flexible, or more targeted, approaches. These include multipurpose services in rural and remote areas, services provided through the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care Strategy, and targeted initiatives to meet particular needs, such as dementia, incontinence, or loss of hearing or vision.
Table 9.13 shows Australian Government expenditure on selected aged care programs.
Residential aged care
The Department of Health and Ageing subsidises and regulates residential care for frail older people. Most residential care is provided by the non-government sector, including not-for-profit and private sector providers. Targeted capital assistance is available to aged-care homes catering largely for residents with special needs or on low incomes, or located in rural and remote areas of Australia. A more detailed description is found in Housing assistance in the Housing chapter.
Veterans, members of the Australian Defence Force and their families
The Government supports those who serve or have served in defence of Australia by providing compensation and income support entitlements, delivering health care and rehabilitation services, and fulfilling Australia's commitment to remember and honour them.
Compensation is paid to veterans, their war widow(er)s and their dependants for the effects of war-caused injury or disease resulting from eligible war or defence service. Injuries or diseases must have been caused or aggravated by war service or certain defence service on behalf of Australia. Rates depend on incapacity and lifestyle.
Table 9.14 shows the number of pensioners by type and total expenditure on disability and war widow(er)s' pensions.
The Veterans' Children Education Scheme provides financial help, guidance and counselling to certain students up to 25 years of age. At June 2007, there were 4,222 beneficiaries. Total expenditure in 2006-07 was $17.7m.
The DVA is responsible for providing benefits through the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA) (Cwlth) for injuries and diseases related to service prior to 1 July 2004 and through the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) (Cwlth). Table 9.15 summarises activities under these Acts for 2006-07.
There are several income support pensions payable to veterans and their dependants.
All recipients of income support payments are eligible for supplementary benefits including the Defence Force Income Support Allowance, Rent Assistance, Remote Area Allowance, Utilities Allowance, Seniors Concession Allowance and Bereavement Payment.
The Defence Service Homes Scheme provides financial benefits, including housing loan interest subsidies, comprehensive home owners insurance cover at competitive rates, and home contents insurance. At 30 June 2007, 86,938 homes were insured. The number of loan accounts was 32,812 and the amount of subsidy paid was $6.2m.
Table 9.16 shows the total number of recipients and annual expenditure on service pensions.
Health care treatment is provided to people whose disabilities have been accepted by DVA as service-related, and for pulmonary tuberculosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and malignant neoplasia whether they are service-related or not. Vietnam veterans with anxiety and depression and Gulf War veterans with undiagnosable conditions are also eligible for health care treatment whether the conditions are service-related or not.
The Vietnam Veterans' Counselling Service (VVCS) provides counselling to veterans of all conflicts and their families, as well as working with the ex-service community to promote understanding and acceptance of veterans' problems. Table 9.17 shows use of the VVCS.
In addition, and subject to conditions, health care treatment in Australia is provided to certain veterans of Australia's defence forces for all health conditions. War widow(er)s and certain other dependants of deceased veterans are also entitled to treatment for all conditions.
Other services include vocational rehabilitation services, acute hospital care, dental and pharmaceutical assistance and transport assistance.
People of working age
Newstart Allowance, Parenting Payment, and Youth Allowance are the main payments available to people of working-age. They provide income support to jobseekers including those with a partial capacity to work due to disability or child caring responsibilities for children of school age, students, those doing voluntary work, or those caring for very young children. From July 2006 working-age payment policies changed to focus more on increasing workforce participation and reducing welfare dependency, through a balance of improved services, increased financial incentives, and appropriate obligations.
In return for financial support, working-age people with a capacity to work are expected to participate in the paid workforce, or demonstrate that they are looking for work or undertaking activities to improve their employment prospects, such as further study, training or approved voluntary work. Participation requirements are reduced for those with a limited work capacity due to disability or caring for school-age children.
Parents with school-age children are required to look for or undertake paid work for a minimum of 15 hours a week, or undertake another approved activity. Parents have access to extensive employment services and child-care assistance to enable workforce participation. Requirements for people with disability emphasise what people can do rather than what they can not do, and ensure they participate in the workforce as far as they are capable. Employment assistance and vocational rehabilitation services help people with disability find and retain work. Long-term unemployed jobseekers are eligible for extra help to find employment, including Wage Assist.
Other workforce age payments include Mature Age Allowance and Partner Allowance (both of which are closed to new claimants), and Widow Allowance. Recipients of these three payments do not have participation requirements; however Job Network services are available to them should they wish to get help to find work. Also available are:
Table 9.18 shows the number of Newstart Allowance, Parenting Payment and other working-age allowances recipients, together with expenditure on these allowances.
People with disability
Services and assistance are available to help people with disability, and their families and carers, to participate actively in community and economic life, access a responsive and sustainable safety net, and develop their capabilities.
Disability support payments
Disability Support Pension (DSP) is an income support payment for people with physical, intellectual or psychiatric impairment assessed as unable to work at least 15 hours a week independently of support. DSP recipients are not required to participate in the workforce, but are encouraged to engage with employment services and look for work that matches their assessed capacity.
DSP is income and assets tested. However, recipients who are permanently blind are exempt from the income and assets tests. DSP for people aged 21 years and over is paid at the same rate as Age Pension. Youth rates apply to those aged under 21 years. These are largely tied to Youth Allowance rates, but include a supplement in recognition of the additional costs faced by people with disabilities. DSP youth rates are not subject to parental income or assets tests.
In addition, Mobility Allowance helps those involved in paid work, employment services, vocational training or voluntary work or a combination of these, who are unable to use public transport without substantial assistance.
Table 9.19 shows the number of recipients of support for people with a disability, and expenditure by payment type.
Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement (CSTDA)
Under the CSTDA, the Australian Government is responsible for specialist disability employment assistance, while the states and territories have primary responsibility for specialist services such as supported accommodation, respite care and community support.
Commonwealth Disability Assistance Package
On 28 June 2007, the Australian Government announced a new Disability Assistance Package which delivers $1.8b in new funding over five years from 1 July 2007. The package includes:
Younger People with Disability in Residential Aged Care
Younger people's social and emotional needs differ to those of seniors and it is preferable for them to be accommodated in age-appropriate care. In March 2006 there were 6,500 people aged less than 65 years with disability in residential aged care, including 1,000 people aged under 50 years. From July 2006, the Australian Government and states and territories are providing new, matched funding of up to $244m over five years for age-appropriate care for younger people with disability who are currently in residential aged care. The program will focus first on people aged less than 50 years in residential aged care.
Other disability support
The Commonwealth Disability Strategy requires Australian Government organisations to remove any barriers that prevent access to policies, programs and services, so that people with disability gain the same access to buildings, services, information, employment, education, sport and recreational activities as everyone else in the community. The Disability Employment Assistance Program assists people who have an impairment that is likely to be permanent and results in the need for ongoing support in employment. Rehabilitation services provide support to improve function and independence in people with a disability so they can gain or retain suitable employment, or live independently. Participation of people with a disability is supported through programs that provide postal concessions for the blind, print disability services, advocacy, the Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service and conference funding.
In February 2006, Australian leaders committed to reform the mental health system. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Action Plan on Mental Health 2006-2011 emphasises collaboration between sectors to deliver a more connected care system. Initiatives valued at $4b are being implemented over five years. Reforms contribute to the wellbeing of people with mental illness, their families and communities.
The Plan aims to improve mental health and facilitate recovery through a greater focus on promotion, prevention and early intervention; improved access to mental health services, including in Indigenous and rural communities; more stable accommodation; and meaningful participation in recreational, social, employment and other activities. Improving the care system will involve a focus on better coordinated care and building workforce capacity.
Carers are a major source of assistance to people in the community who are unable to care adequately for themselves. This assistance helps many people remain at home but it can be reliant on the availability of family and friends to perform the caring role. While caring for someone can be rewarding, it is also physically and emotionally demanding. Carers may need to leave the paid workforce, work shorter hours or have more flexible working arrangements. They may need financial and other support to enable them to participate economically and socially. Nearly 2.6 million Australians are carers and the demand for more carers can be expected to increase as the population ages.
There are two main forms of financial support for carers. Carer Payment provides income support to people who, due to the demands of their caring role, are unable to support themselves through substantial workforce participation. Carer Allowance is a supplementary payment available to people who provide daily care and attention in a private home for an adult or child with a disability, severe medical condition, or who are frail aged. In 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, a Carer Bonus of $1,000 was paid to Carer Payment recipients and $600 for recipients of Carer Allowance for each eligible care receiver.
Table 9.20 shows the number of recipients and expenditure on support for carers.
Carer services and assistance
The Australian Government funds services for carers, including respite services, Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres, practical and financial support, and services delivered through the HACC Program. Other non-financial assistance to carers include special measures for young carers, assistance to parents with disabled children and projects to address the impacts of long-term caring.
Youth and students
Youth Allowance supports young people aged 16-20 years actively seeking employment and full-time students aged 16-24 years. It is subject to a personal income and assets test. If the young person is not independent, then parental income, family assets, and family actual means tests also apply. The rate of payment depends on age and circumstances.
Austudy payment is paid to students 25 years and over who would not be able to study full time without financial help. An individual income and assets test applies. ABSTUDY payment is paid to students of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who are studying an approved course at an approved educational institution and who are not receiving other government assistance for study.
FTB may be available to help families with the cost of raising a young person who is not receiving Youth Allowance or a similar payment. It may be payable for a young person up to 21 years of age, or aged between 21 and 24 years who is studying full time.
Table 9.21 shows the number of recipients and expenditure on youth and student support.
Youth services and support
Young jobseekers can receive assistance in finding employment through Job Network. All young people aged 15-20 years not in full-time education and who are registered with Centrelink as looking for work can access the full range of Job Network services, whether they receive income support or not. Across Australia there are currently 15 Job Network youth specialists. As soon as they commence with Job Network, all young jobseekers aged 15-24 years are able to undertake Job Search Training to gain assistance in interview skills and resume preparation.
The Work for the Dole program provides useful work experience and increases young people's confidence. For the year 2006, 43.8% of participants aged under 20 years were in paid employment and/or education or training three months after leaving Work for the Dole. Similarly, Green Corps, a youth development and environmental training program, provides young people aged 17-20 years (including those not receiving income support) with the opportunity to volunteer to conserve, preserve and restore Australia's natural environment and cultural heritage.
Programs are available to help disengaged and disadvantaged young people to improve their level of engagement with their families and community to overcome barriers to participation. These programs include Reconnect, Newly Arrived Youth Support Service, Mentor Marketplace, YouthLinx, Transition to Independent Living Allowance, and Strengthening and Supporting Families Coping with Illicit Drug Use.
Families form the basic unit of home life for most Australian people. The level of family assistance provided by the Australian Government has increased significantly over recent years. Payments to assist families include FTB, Child Care Benefit and the Maternity Payment, with the highest rates of payment going to low-income families.
Family assistance policies assist with the costs of raising children, including newborns, in ways that recognise the needs and choices of single and dual income families.
FTB Part A helps families with the cost of raising dependent children. It is paid to eligible families with dependent children up to 21 years, and young people between 21 and 24 years who are studying full time. Payments are made for each dependent child who is not receiving Youth Allowance or a similar payment. FTB Part A is subject to a family income test and provides access to supplementary payments, including Rent Assistance, Large Family Supplement and Multiple Birth Allowance. There is also a supplement payable after the end of the financial year.
FTB Part B provides extra assistance for families with only one main income earner and for sole-parent families. Payment to a family is based on the age of the youngest child, and is assessed on the income of the family's second income earner. It is paid per family, not per dependent child. Families must have at least one dependent child aged under 16 years, or aged 16-18 years who is studying full time. The child must not be receiving Youth Allowance or similar payment. FTB Part B has a higher rate of payment where the youngest child is under five years of age. There is also an end of year supplement.
FTB payments are paid through the Family Assistance Office or the tax system. As at the end of June 2007, approximately 1.8 million families with 3.4 million children received FTB Part A, and 1.4 million families received FTB Part B via fortnightly payments from the Family Assistance Office.
Maternity Payment (re-named Baby Bonus from 1 July 2007) is a one-off lump sum payment made to families following the birth (including still birth) or adoption of a baby up to the age of two years. Maternity Payment recognises the extra costs incurred at the time of a new birth or the adoption of a very young child and is not income tested.
Other payments to families include Maternity Immunisation Allowance and Double Orphan Pension.
Table 9.22 shows the number of recipients and expenditure on family assistance.
Services for families
Services to support families and communities include:
Child Support Scheme
The Child Support Agency (CSA) manages the assessment, collection and enforcement of child support liabilities. It aims to ensure that parents continue to financially support their children after separation, according to their capacity. The total amount transferred between parents in 2005-06 was $2.6b. This includes child support assessed by CSA and transferred directly between parents, as well as child support assessed and collected by CSA. Child support associated with parents who elect to transfer payments privately amounted to $1.6b in 2005-06.
Assistance with child-care costs
Access to child care is vital for many families to enable them to participate effectively in the workforce. Child-care services include long day care, family day care, in home care, outside school hours care, vacation care, and occasional care. Flexible services that can combine various models of care are available to meet the needs of families in rural and remote areas.
There are two main forms of payment for child-care support.
Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Child Care provides extra child-care assistance to parents on income support who wish to undertake study, work or job search activities to enter or re-enter the workforce.
Table 9.23 shows the number of recipients of and expenditure on child-care support.
Child Care Services Support Program (CCSSP)
The CCSSP complements assistance provided to families through CCB. Funding to CCSSP is $298m for 2007-08. The program supports the provision of sustainable, quality child care and provides information to assist families to make informed decisions about child care. CCSSP helps to improve access for children and families with special and or additional needs. CCSSP funding targets assistance to areas where a service may not otherwise be viable. This ensures similar services in similar circumstances receive the same funding.
Child Care Management System (CCMS)
Over $73m has been invested to develop the CCMS to provide the best information on child care supply and usage. CCMS will be implemented progressively across child-care services from January 2008 through to 30 June 2009. CCMS will bring all approved child-care providers online to standardise and simplify the administration of CCB.
The strength of community functioning has a large impact on individual, family and community wellbeing. Voluntary work and the way people use their time can impact on strength of community functioning. All levels of government seek to support and strengthen communities through provision of services, either directly or by subsidising the activities of third parties.
Stronger Families and Communities Strategy
The Stronger Families and Communities Strategy is an Australian Government initiative giving families, their children and communities the opportunity to build a better future. The current Strategy (2004-09) has an appropriation of nearly $500m and is focused on early childhood initiatives and resources. The strategy includes the following components.
The Stronger Families and Communities Strategy also funds Growing up in Australia - The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children which will run over nine years to provide a national picture of children and their families.
A number of government programs have been established to encourage greater social integration of communities. The National Action Plan aims to build social cohesion, harmony and security. The Living in Harmony program promotes community harmony and addresses issues of racial, religious and cultural intolerance within Australia. The Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA)'s 'Bringing Communities Together' works with different groups within the community.
Support for newly arrived migrants includes Newly Arrived Youth Support Services, Family Relationship Services for Humanitarian Entrants, Crisis Payment and child care inclusion programs.
The Family Community Network Initiative aims to enhance the capacity of communities and services to work together to address needs. It is administered by FaCSIA and is currently primarily focussed on supporting Indigenous communities participating in the COAG Indigenous Community Coordination Pilots around Australia.
Volunteering promotes social and economic participation and strengthens connections within communities. About one in three Australians aged 18 years and over reported they had done voluntary work in the 2006 General Social Survey, conducted by the ABS. Of those, 54% were female and 46% were male. Volunteering is supported through the Volunteer Small Equipment Grants, Volunteer Management Program and the National Volunteer Skills Centre. The peak body, Volunteering Australia (VA) works for outcomes that support volunteering and facilitates research. VA provides the GoVolunteer website for those interested in becoming a volunteer.
Rural and remote support and services
Many rural and regional communities face economic challenges, declining population, lack of development opportunities, or high levels of unemployment and social disadvantage. Initiatives have been introduced to support employment and economic security for rural families, and economic sustainability for rural communities. Financial assistance packages are available for farmers, businesses, Indigenous and rural communities. In addition, Remote Area Allowance provides extra help for people in remote areas and is paid fortnightly along with the relevant pension or payment. At June 2007, there were 56,100 recipients.
Severe drought has a profound impact on rural and regional communities, the environment and the broader Australian economy. Drought-affected farmers, rural communities and agriculture-dependent small businesses are being supported through income support, interest rate subsidies and free personal and financial counselling.
The Australian Government provides a coordinated approach to delivering recovery assistance in response to onshore and offshore disasters and critical incidents. While the primary role for protecting the community and property in response to domestic disasters rests with state and territory governments, the Australian Government supports the states and territories through programs and measures, including:
For an offshore disaster or critical incident involving Australians, the Australian Government may convene the Interdepartmental Emergency Taskforce, which will coordinate a whole-of-government approach for response and recovery. The AGDRC will coordinate additional recovery assistance which may be provided to Australians affected by such events.
The AGDRP is a flexible payment to assist Australians who have been adversely affected by major onshore or offshore disasters, which came into effect on 1 December 2006 (see Australian Government disaster assistance). The AGDRP was activated on seven occasions during 2006-07 in response to the bushfires in Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, tropical cyclones Jacob and George in Western Australia and the storms and associated flooding in New South Wales and Victoria. By the end of 2006-07, $10.9m was paid under the AGDRP.