Economic Justice Australia welcomes the release of the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children (“National Plan”) and its ambitious goal of ending family and domestic violence within a generation. We’re particularly pleased with its focus on strengthening women’s economic security and addressing structural barriers to achieving change, including barriers endemic to social security policy and Centrelink procedures.
“Recognising the terrible choice that many victims/survivors face, of either leaving the violence to plunge themselves and their children into poverty or return to the violence, Economic Justice Australia also welcomes the Australian Government’s commitment to review the rate of Jobseeker Payment at each budget. The National Plan specifically identifies the needs of sole parents and those who have experienced violence in those deliberations”, said Economic Justice Australia CEO Leanne Ho.
The National Plan recognises that Australia’s social security system supports victims and survivors to not only leave a violent relationship, but also to establish a life free from violence, pointing to Crisis Payment and Rent Assistance as existing examples of support.
The National Plan states: “there are a number of policy settings in place to ensure the social security system is designed to support victim-survivors, including exemptions from mutual obligation requirements and assets tests. Building on work with Economic Justice Australia, amendments have been made to the Social Security Guide to ensure Services Australia staff are well equipped to offer this greater flexibility and support, and to ensure that family and domestic violence is considered in assessing payment eligibility, including when a person is considered as a ‘member of a couple’”.
“Our member community legal centres tell us that policy changes made in response to our research report recommendations have made it easier to have domestic violence circumstances taken into account in Centrelink’s decision-making. Further changes to social security policy guidelines (the Social Security Guide) to improve support to victims/survivors, including in relation to ‘member of a couple’ assessments, are most welcome. However, unjust outcomes for victims/survivors will remain while barriers remain in the social security legislation, no matter how supportive or flexible Services Australia staff try to be”, said Ho.
Economic Justice Australia has developed a legislative brief containing proposals for reform of the social security law to address barriers to claiming Crisis Payment and unfair Centrelink debts where victims/survivors of violence are held responsible for debts which are caused by the perpetrator of violence and where the victim/survivor did not benefit from the overpayment.
“Now that the National Plan is in place, we are keen to ensure that measurable social security targets are included in the first action plan, including the legislative reforms we are working on with the Department of Social Services. Economic Justice Australia has also provided feedback to Services Australia on ways it can implement its Family and Domestic Violence Strategy and looks forward to continuing its work with government to ensure that the needs of women and children experiencing family and domestic violence are taken into account in the delivery of government services”, said Ho.
MEDIA CONTACT: Leanne Ho (Chief Executive Officer) M: 0448 007 201 E: email@example.com