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Both major parties fall short on social policy commitments

NATIONAL DIRECTOR of UnitingCare Australia Susan Helyar said today social policies announced by both the ALP and the Coalition during this election campaign amount largely to punitive, short-term measures that will encourage prejudice in many people, but will do little to address the intergenerational cycle of poverty and disadvantage experienced by some Australians.

The campaign has predictably been fought on economic credentials, but has failed to acknowledge that modest investment in proven social policies would see more people enjoy the benefits of economic and social participation.

Launching UnitingCare Australia’s 2010 Election Report Card this morning, Ms Helyar said while the Australian Greens are more in tune with the benefits of rolling out evidence-based social policy, it has been difficult in this election campaign to get traction on some of the social issues that impact on people’s lives.

“UnitingCare Australia’s 2010 Election Report Card assesses the three major parties performance against the key social priorities set by our network and released early in the campaign,” Ms Helyar said.

“We called for a commitment to reducing cost of living pressures for low income and vulnerable households, reforming services for older people, responding better to the needs of children, young people and families and to ensuring Australia ensures sustainable social services are available to everyone who needs them for as long as it takes for people to get back on track.

“All major parties rightly acknowledge that education and employment are central to a decent life, but neither of the parties capable of forming government has realistic plans in place for those people who face significant barriers to study and work.

“Throughout this campaign UnitingCare Australia has acknowledged measures that put extra money into households who can’t make ends meet.

“But individuals will face a reward and punishment system, where bonus money or the withdrawal of payments will be the primary response to entrenched exclusion caused by unemployment, poverty, mental health problems, substance abuse, family breakdown and homelessness.

“Both the ALP and the Coalition have adopted compulsory income management despite the evidence and advice from Indigenous and non-Indigenous community leaders and researchers. The measure is ineffective, wastes scarce public funds and does not, on its own, reduce welfare dependence or make children safe.

“Underemployment, low paid jobs and inadequate income support are still the source of hardship in many households.

“Australia must invest in programs we know can overcome the root causes of social and economic exclusion.

“What’s missing is the political will to commit the modest resources needed to ensure everyone living in Australia can have a decent life.

“UnitingCare Australia looks forward to working with the new government on effective, sustainable social policies in the interests of all Australians,” Ms Helyar said.

A copy of UnitingCare Australia’s 2010 Federal Election Report Card and Key Social Policy Priorities for the 2010 Federal Election are available at: www.unitingcare.org.au.