Budget cuts to youth welfare 'breaches international law'

FEDERAL plans to cut income support for young people for six months a year and restrict the Newstart Allowance to those over 25 break international law, according to a parliamentary committee headed by Liberal Senator Dean Smith.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights found the proposal was in breach Australia's human rights obligations.

The Australian Council of Social Services and the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition want the legislation dumped by the Senate.

ACOSS is the key Australian group representing the rights of those needing help.

Chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie said the Senate ought to throw out "any compromise deal which would deprive young people of income support for any period, whether it is one or six months".

She said the report showed the government was yet to explain how young people could survive "let alone participate" with no income.

With estimates that more than 100,000 young people would be affected, any brokered deal would have devastating impacts on those affected.

Australian Youth Affairs Coalition national director Leo Fieldgrass, said the plans would push young Australians into poverty and increase homelessness.

"With youth unemployment rates at sky-high levels, punishing young people for not having jobs is inconceivable," he said.

"The Prime Minister recently told the United Nations that Australia leads by example. By rejecting this legislation, Senators can lead by example and show how highly we value our young people and their human rights", said Mr Fieldgrass.

In the committee documents, Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews defended the proposed changes, quoting OECD documents which found unemployed young people were "at risk of becoming social excluded individuals with income below the poverty-line and lacking the skill to improve their economic situation."

"This measure seeks to address youth unemployment by encouraging young people to accept jobs rather than relying on income support at risk of becoming disengaged- both socially and economically," Mr Andrews' office said in response to the committee.

"During the 26 week waiting period young job seekers will have access to the full range of employment services to support their job search efforts.

"After a person's waiting period is served, job seekers will be eligible to receive income support."

The committee found, even with his explanation, the proposed changes was "incompatible with the right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living".


What the committee said about the measures:

• The proposed six-month waiting period for people under 30 who were not in employment or training breaches the right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living. 
The Committee noted that the Government had failed to explain how young people would cope without any access to income.

• The proposed age criteria for accessing Newstart Allowance breaches the rights to equality and non- discrimination on the basis of age.

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