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Progress on welfare reform "unjustifiably slow"

Child advocates are dismayed by the lack of progress in welfare reform since government-appointed experts recommended a complete overhaul nearly two years ago.

None of the 42 key recommendations made by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) in February 2019 have been fully implemented, according to a stocktake released today by the Child Poverty Action Group. Of the 126 detailed recommendations, only 4 (3%) have been found to be fully implemented.

“The government says it wants welfare reform to enable people to live in dignity with adequate incomes, and it asked WEAG for a plan to achieve this,” says stocktake co-author Professor Innes Asher who served on WEAG. “But so far the government has delivered remarkably little of that plan.”

Seven of WEAG’s key recommendations have been “partially” implemented and a further 12 “minimally” implemented. For more than half (23) of the key recommendations, the researchers found no evidence of any implementation at all.

“Given WEAG found that people receiving benefits are living ‘desperate lives’ on ‘seriously inadequate incomes’, the progress on implementation appears unjustifiably slow,” says co-author Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns.

The researchers note that while preparations for further action may be happening behind closed doors, the government has not publicly committed to many further specific WEAG responses, apart from a 2020 election promise to let people earn more in paid work before their benefit starts reducing.

“Children cannot wait – their minds, emotions, bodies are constantly developing and this development can be affected by chronic stress and lack of essentials,” says Prof Asher. “Fixing welfare is long overdue, and the government has now been sitting on the blueprint for essential work for nearly two years. We need to turn the vision into reality with urgency.”

PDF: What happened to ‘welfare overhaul’? A stocktake of implementation of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s 2019 recommendations by Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns and Innes Asher, Child Poverty Action Group (November 2020)

MS Word: What happened to ‘welfare overhaul’? A stocktake of implementation of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s 2019 recommendations by Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns and Innes Asher, Child Poverty Action Group (November 2020)