Plan to bridge welfare divide

RATHER than decry the amount of social welfare flowing to Tasmania, the state should make better use of such income, one academic suggests.

David Adams, professor of management and innovation at the University of Tasmania and former Social Inclusion Commissioner, said it was time to ask how social welfare could be used to help create independence, rather than viewing it as a problem.

About one in three Tasmanians rely on payments like Newstart.

``Income support is one of the major sources of income coming into Tasmania, and we need to think of better ways to use it,'' Professor Adams said.

That idea is on a list of 10 things that Professor Adams said, when done in combination, could improve the social well-being of Tasmanians who were poorer, unhealthier and less educated than their mainland counterparts.

``The key point about changing culture and entrenched disadvantage is that it needs a concerted effort across a number of fronts, rather than dabbling at the edges and blaming others which is what most governments do,'' Professor Adams said.

The 10 measures are:

 1. Create stronger links between children attending school and their parents' welfare payments. 

Professor Adams said there were mixed views on reducing or stopping payments if children didn't attend school, but if used in conjunction with other measures this could work. ``On its own, this is certainly going to fail.''

 2. Remove barriers to getting an education, such as children staying at home to care for relatives, with long-term family support. 

Students are turning up to school tired or hungry. Professor Adams said others may not have an appropriate place in which to finish their homework. He said the state government was trying to remove such issues with the right strategies but the funding was ``not to an appropriate scale or scope''.

 3. Increase links between senior years at school and workplace training and apprenticeship programs. 

This is done to an extent, but there needs to be more collaboration in the post-year 10 area.

 4. Introduce a more diversified and engaging school curriculum. 

``How do we make school more attractive to children as well as their parents?'' Professor Adams asked.

 5. Boost support for recreation, arts and sporting activities. 

Professor Adams said it was so important that all levels of government and communities in general supported such activities, as it was often there that children and adults mixed with positive role models.

 6. Get rid of poverty traps. 

This can be any situation where there is more incentive for someone to stay on welfare, rather than work. An example of this would be someone who pays more in travel costs to get to a part-time or casual job than their salary adds up to.

 7. Use the National Broadband Network and social media to increase positive peer mentoring. 

``Most people change their behaviour not because of what politicians or experts tell them, but because of what people they know and trust tell them,'' Professor Adams said.

 8. Make years 11 and 12 compulsory through a mix of localised, out-of-area and online options. 

It is important to create better incentives for students to stay in school.

 9. Increase incentives for social enterprises that build entrepreneurial skills. 

This could include offering low-interest schemes, paying welfare upfront in larger amounts so it can be used as capital, or helping communities to band together so they command group buying power for things like energy use. ``People on low incomes are just as entrepreneurial and creative as others in society, it's just that more often than not access to capital is more of a problem,'' Professor Adams said.

 10. Support capacity building, resilience and sustainability skills. 

An example provided was a community vegetable garden, which provides people with food and a social outlet as well as skilling them up.

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