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  • Author or Editor: Philip Mendes x
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This chapter explores the engagement of social workers in the policy process in Australia. It describes the professional discourse and socialization process regarding policy practice and then moves on to discuss the degree to which Australian social workers actually engage in policy practice. The chapter concludes with an effort to explain the relatively limited engagement of social workers in policy practice in Australia.

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This chapter examines the engagement of social work academics in the policy process in Australia. It begins by presenting an overview of social policy in Australia and by discussing the emergence of social work and the place of policy practice in that country. The features of social work education in Australia are then depicted. Following this, the methodology and the findings of a study of the policy engagement of social work academics in Australia are presented. The findings relate to the levels of engagement in policy and the forms that this takes. They also offer insights into various factors that are associated with these, such as perceptions, capabilities, institutional support and the accessibility of the policy process. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the findings and their implications.

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To assist care-leavers in navigating transitional challenges, developmental and environmental resources are essential. Additionally, informal support is pivotal to the transition of care-leavers into adulthood. A small qualitative study conducted from 2016 to 2019 in Victoria, Australia, provides the basis for this chapter. The research used an analytical framework based on the core concepts of social capital and social support. It helped explore how social support actions and social capital functions interact to allow young people to harness and access developmental and environmental resources to help meet their transitional needs. Social support and capital have been found to contribute to meaningful relationships, normative social experiences, resilience, positive self-identity and progressive responsibility. Policy and practice implications are also discussed in the chapter.

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The basic question this chapter seeks to answer is, how did Australia and New Zealand arrive at a moment where they felt it was necessary to introduce policy changes that are quite unique compared with other countries. The focus of the discussion centres around notions of welfare and income support recipient subjectivities, noting the differences and similarities between the two countries in relation to narratives around race and nationalism in settler colonial societies, and the construction of families and children in the justification for the introduction of compulsory income management. Concerns about the welfare of children were prominent features of the debate in both countries, and young people were positioned as ‘vulnerable’ and at risk of not making a successful transition to the workforce. The data drawn on for this chapter is an analysis of Hansard documents, media discourse and interviews with politicians to provider an ‘insider’ perspective on the politics of compulsory income management. The analytical approach draws on interpretative policy analysis, paying explicit attention to values, discourse and subjectivities in constructing the social problem that income quarantining and welfare conditionality purports to address.

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The chapter examines policy implementation of compulsory income management, with consideration given to the limits of the consultation approaches used by government, the mixed economy of welfare in the delivery of compulsory income management, and the role of intermediaries such as front-line social services and for-profit companies that provide the cashless welfare technologies. The chapter details the range of practical and administrative issues that have been identified by research participants living on compulsory income management in Australia and New Zealand. The chapter also considers the perspectives of community stakeholders. What the empirical analysis highlights is that the majority of the people targeted by the policy do not see themselves as having a problem with alcohol or gambling, or in managing money. What they lack are the financial resources to meet their needs. The analysis also shows that, with some exceptions, the introduction of compulsory income management led to a further deterioration of people’s financial wellbeing.

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Compulsory income management has been touted as a measure to bring financial stability to welfare recipients’ lives, improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities in the process. In reality, however, compulsory income management can have contradictory and even counterproductive effects. This chapter explores the impact of compulsory income management on participants’ wellbeing and sense of self. It shows that – while financial stress and reduced financial control are key concerns for many participants – the infantilisation and stigmatisation that compulsory income management involves are also powerful stressors. Together, these factors can contribute to significant reductions in participant wellbeing, harming cardholders, their families and their communities. The influence of financial deprivation on physical and psychological wellbeing underlines the importance of available funds, personal autonomy and social connectedness for good health. While a minority of individuals experience improved financial and material stability under compulsory income management the social and emotional impacts of the policy have been largely negative.

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The first chapter places the Australian and New Zealand cases of conditional welfare in an historical and comparative global context. The chapter traces the intellectual and political foundations of welfare conditionality, and its various manifestations in a range of countries, particularly the Anglosphere welfare states that have a high degree of convergence around poverty governance. The chapter also outlines the theoretical lens that is used to analyse and understand welfare conditionality in Australia and New Zealand. Here we draw on theories of human agency, social identity and autonomy and social justice frameworks as developed by a range of scholars that acknowledge the intersections between redistribution, recognition and representation in policy development, welfare administration, and sociolegal studies.

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More Harm than Good?

More than a decade on from their conception, this book reflects on the consequences of income management policies in Australia and Zealand.

Drawing on a three-year study, it explores the lived experience of those for whom core welfare benefits and services are dependent on government conceptions of ‘responsible’ behaviour. It analyses whether officially claimed positive intentions and benefits of the schemes are outweighed by negative impacts that deepen the poverty and stigma of marginalised and disadvantaged groups.

This novel study considers the future of this form of welfare conditionality and addresses wider questions of fairness and social justice.

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The final chapter takes a global perspective on economic and social security and considers new and emerging risks that income support systems must respond to in the twenty-first century, which include shifting demographics in terms of age and household formation, increased geographical mobility, new forms of precarious labour associated with changes in technology and environmental risks resulting from climate change. There is a need to revisit first principles when determining the primary policy goals of a social security system. Addressing the inadequacy of income support payments, ensuring decent employment and training opportunities, and providing accessible social services is a better starting point for creating healthy, economically secure and socially inclusive communities, compared with blunt and punitive policies that are pushing ordinary citizens further towards the margins of their communities.

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The chapter examines social policy and the law, both in terms of social security law that facilitates income management and administrative law as it pertains to citizen redress and review. Analysis of the legal restrictions imposed through compulsory income management in Australia and New Zealand is needed to ascertain the extent to which the autonomy of welfare recipients is impacted and how this affects consumer choices. In Australia, compulsory income management has required that managed funds be spent at government approved retailers on legislatively defined ‘priority needs’. An under-examined aspect of compulsory income management is therefore the constraints it places on the contractual capacity of welfare recipients subject to it and how this relates to structural equity barriers. The chapter explores how law can impact the relationships between citizens and what factors are considered by lawmakers in determining whether some people are worthy of being accorded the same citizenship rights as others, thereby drawing attention to the distribution of burdens and benefits in administrative justice. Methods of analysis include participant interviews reflections on procedural rights and review, critical analysis of relevant legislation, and legislative instruments in Australia and New Zealand.

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