The Committee for Economic Development of Australia is calling for a “complete 180” on the way the nation tackles poverty, by using data to identify those at risk of disadvantage as early as the time they are born. Source: The Age.
In a report released today, CEDA says there should be a “we find you first” approach taken to welfare and government services, arguing current efforts to address poverty are “stuck” and only address the “symptoms”, not the underlying cause.
“It's about the system finding them and investing in them,” CEDA's chief executive Melinda Cilento said. “It's a complete 180.”
A 2018 Productivity Commission report found 700,000 (about three per cent of Australians) had been in continuous income poverty (income below 50 per cent of the median) for at least the past four years. It also found that of those in poverty in 2001, 30 per cent were in the same situation in 2016.
Ms Cilento said the exact methodology to find people at risk would need to be carefully worked out, but could use measures like low birth weight and whether a family has stable housing. CEDA stressed this data linkage approach would not be about punishment, but identifying those who would most benefit from extra supports with things such as early childhood education, schooling and community services.
“It needs to be done really, really well and it needs to be done with the right intentions,” Ms Cilento said.
In the immediate term, CEDA said there needs to be a boost to Newstart and Commonwealth Rent Assistance, which “no longer reflect economic circumstances or community expectations”.
Asked to comment on CEDA's data proposal, a spokesperson for Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said the Government had been using a “priority investment approach” since 2016, which used actuarial analysis to estimate Australia's future lifetime welfare costs and then develop “evidence-based” policies and “direct them where they best deliver results”.
New CEDA report: it is time to disrupt disadvantage (Committee for Economic Development of Australia)