Income scheme faces criticism
ROCKHAMPTON'S Catholic Bishop Brian Heenan thinks there are better ways to support the city's most vulnerable people than the Federal Government's controversial income management scheme.
With the scheme set to be rolled out from July in Rockhampton - one of two centres in Queensland and five in Australia where it will be introduced - Bishop Heenan this week aired his concern the scheme would make life tougher for struggling families.
The government's compulsory scheme will see 70% of some welfare recipients' income quarantined to ensure money is available for essential living items.
This week the Queensland Greens put pressure on the State's Minister for Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services Tracy Davis not to sign an agreement with the Federal Government for the scheme.
A key argument made by Greens spokeswoman Libby Connors was the opposition from well-respected community groups, including Australia's Catholic bishops.
The Morning Bulletin approached Bishop Heenan, the Catholic Bishop of Rockhampton, who acknowledged it was a complex problem.
Bishop Heenan said his personal concern was that the government was adopting a restrictive approach rather than a co-operative one.
"When you take away a human right, essentially that can lead to more suffering," he said.
"The Catholic Church is not opposed to the scheme for Rockhampton, but when you enforce a punitive measure like this it has to be thought out.
"We should look for positive ways to help families manage their money responsibly.
"This can be done through social work and community organisations."
Member for Capricornia Kirsten Livermore said the Federal Government was acting in a "socially responsible" manner in its approach.
"Through these programs we will tackle long-term unemployment and better the futures of many people living in our community," she said.
"It is time for a new approach that balances individual responsibility with genuine programs aimed at helping people find work."
A petition opposing the scheme has been signed by more than 35,000 Australians.
Income Management Scheme
- The model set to be introduced in Rockhampton will be similar to the one operating in Western Australia since 2008.
- Some welfare recipients will have 70% of their income quarantined.
- Will apply to parents referred by state child protection authorities and people assessed by Centrelink as "vulnerable" to financial crisis.
- Financial advocacy and counselling will also be available to people placed on the scheme.
- It will ensure the 70% proportion of family assistance income can't be spent on excluded items like alcohol and tobacco.
- The scheme comes into effect in Rockhampton on July 1.