Community Affairs Legislation Committee
Estimates hearings, 16 February 2012
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
- Mr Michael Lye, Group Manager, Families
- Ms Elizabeth Hefren-Webb, Branch Manager, Welfare Payments Reform
Senator RHIANNON: In response to a question on notice, I received information from you that the total cost of the establishment and operation of income management across the five new sites is $117.5 million over five years. Could you indicate the breakdown of what proportion of that money is shared establishment costs and what costs are being incurred in those five locations?
Ms Hefren-Webb: I would not have that breakdown here with me, but I could undertake to provide that to you to on notice.
Senator RHIANNON: Within that information, are you able to indicate what amounts of money are being allocated to specific sites?
Mr Lye: We have indicated that that is difficult for us to do, given that some of the infrastructure in the trial are platforms that are shared across all the sites.
Senator RHIANNON: That is why I am asking the question now. It has proceeded a number of months and planning would have been further advanced. As well as the shared establishment costs, you are able to identify some specific costs. Are we at that stage yet?
Ms Hefren-Webb: Just to give you an example of why it is difficult, DHS operates a call centre for income managed clients. It is operated centrally, out of Hobart. That is available for all income managed clients across the country when they need assistance to call. So we would not be attributing particular elements of those costs to a particular site because it is really dependent upon the volume of clients and the call traffic and so forth. Some elements we will be able to attribute specifically to Bankstown but—
Senator RHIANNON: That is what I was after.
Ms Hefren-Webb: It probably would not be indicative of all the support that is going to be provided to people in Bankstown.
Senator RHIANNON: I was just after what was indicative for certain sites and what those amounts were—if you could take that on notice. Could you indicate what meetings you have had in Bankstown, what groups you met with, and when those meetings were held?
Ms Hefren-Webb: Would you like me to indicate that now? I would probably have to take it on notice to get a completely comprehensive list, because our New South Wales state office has had quite a number of meetings. I can indicate some of the meetings I have been present at.
Senator RHIANNON: Because my time is limited we do not need to go into it. Can those details include the meetings that you had with businesses?
Ms Hefren-Webb: DHS would have had the meetings with businesses. You are talking about businesses around sign-up to the BasicsCard?
Senator RHIANNON: Yes.
Ms Hefren-Webb: Human services do all the relationship with business and sign-up of merchants, so it is probably a question better directed to them.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for explaining that. Do you inform the people who are put on income management how they can get off income management?
Ms Hefren-Webb: People placed on income management are advised of their appeal rights and all processes related to it.
Senator RHIANNON: Appeal rights are the only way they can get off it? Or do you set out clearly what their requirements are?
Ms Hefren-Webb: It depends which way they have come onto income management. If a person volunteers, obviously once they have done 13 weeks they are free to leave the program. If a person comes on through a social worker referral, there is a regular series of reviews, and at each review the option of income management ceasing would be discussed with the individual. If a person comes on through the child protection system, likewise there is a series of periodic reviews and the option of ending income management will be something the child protection worker would discuss with the client. That would all be explained to a person when they came onto income management—what are the opportunities. In the Northern Territory people on income management can also apply for exemption. It is explained to people up there what exemption categories are available and how they need to go about getting evidence.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Just a more general question: has there been any budget allocation or forward planning for expanding to other trial sites in New South Wales?
Ms Hefren-Webb: I think Mr Lye said earlier that the government have indicated they are interested in looking at options for further extension of income management. They stated so when they announced the new scheme in the Northern Territory in late 2009. We do ongoing work advising government about policy development for that policy goal.
Senator RHIANNON: What advice have you given to government?
Ms Hefren-Webb: I am not at liberty to advise about policy advice we have given.
Senator RHIANNON: I was not after your policy advice, but rather the advice you have given on where this trial can be expanded within New South Wales.
Ms Hefren-Webb: That is policy advice to government.
Senator RHIANNON: I would like to go back to an earlier question that was taken on notice. In the answer to that question, could you give me an idea of some of the groups you have met with and the details around that?
Ms Hefren-Webb: Yes. I have met with Arab Council Australia. They hosted a meeting for us where we met with a number of the community organisations in Bankstown. I think it included community services in Villawood—some of the migrant services et cetera. We have also met with the Bankstown City Council Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee. We have met with the Benevolent Society. We have met with a group of Aboriginal elders from the Bankstown area.
Senator RHIANNON: Businesses? You told me; I forgot.
Mr Lye: Those meetings all came after a general community meeting that was held, which DEEWR, DHS and we attended; DHS would have the details of the attendees. That was a broad meeting with local community service providers and other interested people.
Senator RHIANNON: I will leave it at that but, in answer to the question on notice, could you also give me the dates of those meetings? Thank you very much.