14 July 2006

A two-day international forum being held at The Carlton Crest Hotel, Brisbane on July 17-18 will discuss the impact of the Federal Government’s welfare-to-work changes introduced in July this year.

Hosted by the Social Policy Unit at The University of Queensland, the international forum Road to Where? The Politics and Practice of Implementing Welfare-to-Work’will critically examine the policies and practice of ‘welfare reform’.

In particularly, it will examine the new welfare-to-work policies and what the reform means for social citizenship and the Australian welfare state.

Director of the Social Policy Unit Dr Greg Marston said: “These changes will move a significant number of single parents and people with disabilities from a pension to a lower rate of unemployment benefits, forcing more Australians, including women and children, into greater poverty.

"They will mean a lower rate of income support payment for around 150,000 Australians over the next three years.”

The forum places Australia in an international context, particularly in terms of how welfare reform has been implemented in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Leading academic researchers from these two countries will discuss the similarities and differences between their own country and the path that the Australian Government has taken.

Other topics to be discussed include:

• The Ethics of Welfare-to Work
• Calculating the costs and benefits of Welfare-to-Work
• Welfare Reforms in Australia and the Negotiation of Motherhood
• A Failure of Social Welfare Policy: Poverty and Family Life
• Implementing Welfare-to-Work – a View from Inside Government
• Transitioning from Welfare-to-Work: Perspectives from the ‘coalface’

According to Dr Marston, a foundational problem is the false assumption that most unemployed people lack the motivation to work and that it is in the public interest to enforce a narrow vision of independent, working motherhood.

He said the papers to be presented at this conference showed that neither of these assumptions was supported by research evidence.

“This conference seeks to cut through the rhetoric of official reports and government spin and uniquely highlight both the practical and philosophical issues associated with implementing the government’s controversial welfare-to-work changes," he said.

“The reality is that many low income Australians will now face the double whammy of Industrial Relations changes and welfare reform. They may be placed in a situation where they have no choice but to accept a job with few entitlements or lose their income support payment.

“A key outcome of the forum will be to forge an independent coalition of researchers, service providers, advocates and peak bodies that will ensure the government is held accountable for its policies.”

The two day international forum draws together more than 150 service providers and service users, academic researchers and policy makers to discuss and debate what Dr Marston said were the most radical reforms to welfare and work standards in more than 100 years.

Media are invited to attend any of the addresses across the two days. The forum begins July 17 and ends July 18, and is being held at The Carlton Crest Hotel, Brisbane. Media Kits will be available at the registration desk.

Further information on the conference and abstracts can be found by visiting www.uq.edu.au/swahs/welfaretowork

For further information contact Dr Greg Marston g.marston@social.uq.edu.au or 3365 3024 or 0431587732.