NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Community Development Programme (CDP) Debate : Is it adult childcare for Aboriginal people ?

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” Adult childcare for Aboriginal people. That’s how one CDP participant described the failing CDP.

Working for less than the minimum wage, people unable to afford food or pay their rent. And no jobs. This report says what many CDP participants and providers in the NT have been telling me – it’s just not working.

Senator Nigel Scullion needs to listen and make urgent changes so CDP works.”

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy is a Northern Territory Labor Senator in the Federal Parliament

Download the Job Creation and Income Support in Remote Indigenous Australia: Moving Forward with a Better System report here

 ” If I had been invited to contribute to the report, I would have pointed to the significant progress the CDP has delivered in terms of engagement and participation rates,

The last thing the communities I visit and engage with on a regular basis say to me is that they want a return to passive welfare and disengagement – which is precisely what would happen if we ended the CDP.

It is disappointing that public debate is being dominated by urban academics like Dr Jordan whose professional experience is limited to being an academic in east coast universities, and the union organisations like the ACTU that have only opposed mutual obligation requirements since the change of Government in 2013.”

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, has strongly rejected the findings contained in an Australian National University (ANU) report about the Coalition Government’s Community Development Programme (CDP) that has been released last week .see press release in Article 2

Picture above : Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion chats with local tradesmen and trainees in the Indigenous community of Milingimbi in the Northern Territory in July 2015 while launching the government’s Community Development Program. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

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Researchers call for urgent rethink of remote policy – ANU press release

The Community Development Programme (CDP) is a remote-area Work for the Dole scheme that principally affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The program is billed by the government as ‘helping people find work, and allowing them to contribute to their communities and gain skills while looking for work.’ But there is mounting evidence that CDP is creating significant hardship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities, leading to increasing pressure for the scheme to be scrapped or radically overhauled.

This series of short articles provides background to these developments and offers insights into a productive way ahead. The contributors are academics and representatives from key Indigenous institutions, all of whom have a longstanding interest in the field and are deeply concerned by the current policy direction.

Researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) have called for an urgent rethink of the Federal Government’s Community Development Programme (CDP), a work-for-the-dole style initiative for remote areas, after a report found it is causing major problems.

The CDP was introduced in July 2015 and includes around 34,000 people of whom 84 per cent are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The program replaced the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme (RJCP) and the earlier Community Development Employment Program (CDEP).

Report editor Dr Kirrily Jordan said the program has significant ramifications for Australia’s remote communities.

“We’re getting reports of people going hungry and not able to feed their kids,” Dr Jordan said.

“In some places there are reduced store sales, a big increase in those falling behind in rent, people are unable to pay back fines which puts them at risk of imprisonment, and we’re hearing about increased tensions in communities because of conflicts about money.”

The new scheme increased the number of hours required for most people to receive unemployment benefits from 15 hours a week in CDEP to 25 hours a week, for at least 46 weeks per year.

In contrast participants in jobactive, the equivalent program in regional and urban areas, generally have much less onerous work for the dole requirements, and only for six months of the year.

Dr Jordan of the ANU Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research said the changes had resulted in a number of serious issues for people living in remote communities.

“In a lot of these places people don’t have reasonable access to Centrelink. There’s often very limited  internet and phone coverage, so people who want to contact Centrelink are sometimes having to use the one or two community phones, often lining up for days on end to try to talk to someone,” Dr Jordan said.

“Even once they do get through they often can’t understand each other, so people are being penalised unfairly.

“Being required to do 25 hours per week is a lot tougher than unemployment schemes for people in urban and regional areas.

“That means there is a much higher likelihood of penalties, just because the obligations are so much higher.”

The report found under CDP 146,000 financial penalties have been applied in 2015-16 to 34,000 participants, compared to 104,000 penalties applied to around 750,000 jobactive participants.

The report’s authors believe there needs to be an urgent rethink of the CDP policy.

“We’re saying here that a number of experienced academics and representatives of Aboriginal organisations feel the scheme is a policy disaster and an affront to human rights,” Dr Jordan said.

“People living in remote Aboriginal communities often get characterised as living ‘dysfunctional’ lives, when CDP is a clear example of people trying their best and being undermined by dysfunctional government policy.”

“Work needs to start on designing a whole new program. It’s so flawed and broken that they need to go back to basics and this time collaborate properly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations and design a scheme that will work in a remote context.”

The report titled ‘Job creation and income support in remote Indigenous Australia: moving forward with a better system’ has been prepared by researchers at the ANU’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Deakin University, The University of Melbourne, and the CEOs of the Northern Land Council and Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory.  The full report is available at http://caepr.anu.edu.au/Publications/topical/2016TI2.php.

Facts don’t back up ANU report on CDP

Minister Scullion noted the report, Job Creation and Income Support in Remote Indigenous Australia: Moving Forward with a Better System, was compiled by ANU academics, Dr Kirrily Jordan and Lisa Fowkes, without any input from his office or department.

If I had been invited to contribute to the report, I would have pointed to the significant progress the CDP has delivered in terms of engagement and participation rates,” Minister Scullion said.

“The last thing the communities I visit and engage with on a regular basis say to me is that they want a return to passive welfare and disengagement – which is precisely what would happen if we ended the CDP.

“Support for the CDP is demonstrated by the number of participants who volunteer to participate in activities: more than 7000 or around 22 per cent of the caseload.

“Under the CDP, 85 per cent of eligible job seekers have been placed in work -like activities, up from 45 per cent at the end of the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme (RJCP).

“The CDP has supported job seekers into more than 11,000 jobs and achieved more than 3600 26-week employment outcomes for job seekers in remote communities.

“The rate of job seekers actively participating in the programme has increased from less than 7 per cent in July 2015 to 62 per cent in November 2016 – reversing the failed arrangements ofthe former RJCP that facilitated passive welfare at the expense of community engagement.

“We estimate the Government provides about $400 million every quarter in welfare payments to remote communities covered by the CDP. Less than 1 per cent of this is deducted as a result of financial penalties imposed because of non-attendance at CDP work-for-the-dole activities.

“I remain committed to working in partnership with the Opposition, communities and providers to continue to improve the operation of the CDP and ensure local communities have more control, including through the delivery of the programme by local providers rather than Centrelink.

“This proposed reform to support local delivery of the CDP would address many of the issues the authors of this report raise but fail to acknowledge.”

Minister Scullion said Dr Jordan also failed to acknowledge the mutual obligation requirements for remote job seekers were not more demanding than those of non-remote job seekers.

“All activity-tested job seekers nationally are required to undertake up to 25 hours of mutual obligation activity (depending on their assessed capacity to work) in return for their income support.

“Furthermore, waiver provisions are in place to ensure that financial penalties such as the eightweek non-payment period do not cause undue financial hardship. More than 90 per cent of eight – week non-payment penalties are waived.

“It is disappointing that public debate is being dominated by urban academics like Dr Jordan whose professional experience is limited to being an academic in east coast universities, and the union organisations like the ACTU that have only opposed mutual obligation requirements since the change of Government in 2013.

“In contrast, the Government is working in partnership with communities to reduce sit down welfare in remote communities and get job seekers into work and actively engaged.

“I have visited more than 150 communities on more than 200 occasions to talk with communitie s about the CDP and am committed to continuing to engage with communities.

“I encourage the report’s authors to talk to me and the communities I visit that have strongly welcomed the introduction of the CDP before reaching conclusions about the CDP that are not backed up by the real evidence.”

 

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