I thought this morning I might have a bit of a rave about social inclusion and seeking a place to start, chose Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org). Type in 'social inclusion' and you will find yourself redirected to 'social exclusion', also a work in progress. Apart from suggesting that this might be a good place for readers to leave their mark, I was reminded that, around the world, while social exclusion is recognised as damaging for society, achieving inclusion is difficult - really hard if you don't talk about it!.
So, a pat on the back for the Federal government and www.socialinclusion.gov.au
The Rudd government appears to have made a genuine and significant commitment to reaching out to the most excluded members of Australian society and to those conditions, such as unemployment, that are a major cause of exclusion.
Now, in the context of an economic downturn, it is more important than ever to ensure that people with disability, the elderly, Indigenous Australians and people who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness, have a place to turn in an environment that prevents folk falling through any cracks.
In an indication of the seriousness with which the government has approached the needs of disadvantaged groups a high level team of Ministers including the Prime Minister, Mr. Kevin Rudd, the Deputy Prime Minister, Ms Julia Gillard and Senator Ursula Stephens are tasked with the oversight and development of an integrated approach.
The social inclusion website is a great place to find out more about this vital subject.
Now, could it be improved?
My word. Take a look at: http://www.socialinclusion.gov.au/Pages/ResearchPapers.aspx
Anything much about disability, other than in the context of other disadvantaging conditions. We can do better than that surely? A good place to start would be a proper consideration of the role of the Disability Employment Network.
First question: In Australian society is it a good idea to have the employment of people who have a disability an opportunity for commercial profit, or a national safety net program that receives sufficient funds to care for X number of people?
There are merits to both pathway: If you have a for profit agenda organisations will be encouraged to utilise innovation and initiative to get as many people from welfare to taxpayer, motivated by the knowledge that they can improve their own financial standing in the process (economists have a name for this, which I forget, but it is essentially enlightened self-interest. The downside is that the most disadvantaged will not be as 'profitable' and will be left behind as the more readily employable are creamed off (sounds like an idea to increase social inclusion that would start off well, peaks and then fade).
If you have not for profit agenda (and I think the 'charitable' status of some organisations in disability employment is open to serious question) you aren't free of problems; charities by their nature will spend on the most disadvantaged so the cost can go up and the numbers can decline (sounds expensive and not easy to grow).
I have asked this question with an agenda - I believe that you can have both.
The Federal government is in the process of redesigning disability employment and has proposed 2 streams: essentially on-going need for support and short term assistance to find employment.
You can overlay the strengths of the for-profit and not for profit sectors with the 2 streams. The Minister might like to consider protecting what is now the capped program for some 50,000 people while opening up the remainder of DSP recipients to all providers of government employment services.
Next question: how could we afford it?
In the context of social inclusion we might better ask how can we not? but leaving that aside, here's a plan:
Don't pay for having people on the books, pay a fixed sum for results or pay according to reduction in pension receipts - If a $10k bounty was placed on the removal of a person on DSP into the role of taxpayer (after 6 months employment) NOVA would be in and I am sure the majority of employment service providers would also back themselves to succeed - you don't need a huge machine to monitor results, data is available from Centrelink and an annual audit would protect Commonwealth money from misuse.
New Minister - new ideas.
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