Quarantining welfare payments in indigenous communities fails to address the real issues putting children at risk and undermines people's sense of responsibility, according to Catholic Social Services Australia Executive Director, Frank Quinlan.Responding to media reports the welfare debit card will see a portion of benefits quarantined for approved goods and services such as food and clothing, Mr Quinlan released a statement saying that quarantining welfare payments in Indigenous communities will not address the underlying issues that put children at risk, like family dysfunction, mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse and addiction to gambling and pornography.
"We need systems that encourage people to take responsibility and make better decisions.
"But these initiatives take responsibility away from the people who most need to take action.
"There’s also the risk that strategies like this one will force people who are in genuine need of encouragement and support to hide their problems rather than voluntarily coming forward to agencies who can offer help.
Mr Quinlan said people targeted by the welfare debit card must get access to essential services or they will be left to languish on waiting lists for alcohol and drug treatment programs, child protection intervention and other social services.
"Child protection measures should be put in place to protect all children at risk, regardless of the colour of their parents' skin or the source of the family's income.
"Child abuse is not restricted to the households of low income welfare recipients.
"If the Government is serious about helping children at risk, it must adopt a strategy that includes the whole population.
"The measure announced today further stigmatises people on welfare payments and will do little to stem problems like chronic alcohol and drug abuse that exist in many Australian households,” Mr Quinlan said.
Catholic Social Services Australia provides services to over a million Australians each year through its 64 member agencies in remote, regional and metropolitan Australia.
Child protection - so much more than just groceries (CSSA, Media Release, 9/5/08)