Topics: National Redress Scheme, JobSeeker, Autism pilots
TOM CONNELL, HOST: Joining me live is Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth. Thanks very much for your time. On Autism, two pilot programs have been announced. We've had these in the past. They seem to be really successful. That is a good result, crucially for children, for babies and as they grow up, for young children and for the budget. Bottom line, why not go bigger on this?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: What we've seen already is a trial in West Australia which looks for the early signs of autism and then supports families and other services around them to make sure that they are in an environment which allows them to thrive. This trial was joint between the NDIS and the Telethon Kids Institute in WA and that's showing good results. So, we are looking at how these trials might expand across Australia using a number of different models to see what good outcomes they can have. I must emphasise, though, this is about the important outcomes for children and their families, not about savings to the NDIS. But what we do know, of course, is if you're able to put the right environment in place for a child showing signs of neurodiversity then you get good developmental outcomes for the child.
TOM CONNELL: Yeah, and I understand you're talking about that as a priority, but on the hard numbers side of thing as well, if those outcomes happen, we would end up, would we not, with fewer people needing the NDIS or perhaps reduced plans on the NDIS and a saving? Is this potentially one of the biggest structural savings that we'll see in the NDIS going forward? Is this a big part of Labor's plan to make it more sustainable?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: That's obviously what Bill Shorten, the Minister for the NDIS, has been working on, is how we ensure we get an NDIS system that is fit for purpose. That is delivering, importantly, the services to people who need it. One of the challenges has been the complexity some of the frustrations participants have had. And by fixing some of those frustrations, it is about making the system work better, ultimately for those people living with disability. But of course, if you can intervene early and you can get support early, then what you've actually got is less costly and complex interventions later on.
TOM CONNELL: Yeah, the hope is a win win. You're announcing more money today for the redress scheme, that is, for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, institutionalised abuse. How much longer will this be needed in terms of getting people into the scheme and getting that redress? Like, is there a big outstanding number of people and what's been holding them back so far from getting the redress?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly what we are investing in is some extra money to make sure that the scheme can manage the claims that it is currently getting. Of course, not all claims come in the first couple of years. Sometimes it takes some time for people to understand they might be entitled to redress. It has taken some time to get institutions on board to provide that redress. So, we want to make sure that the scheme is really fit for purpose. The previous government didn't put adequate funding in the Budget to support the scheme, so we had to provide a top up of course, in the October budget. And we're also providing more money for the scheme now. Not just for the scheme itself, but importantly for the support services. The evidence shows that if people go through a redress support service then it is a smoother ride for them through the process.
TOM CONNELL: Yeah, obviously often many years of trauma before they're actually applying for that period. I want to ask you finally about JobSeeker. So, a small real increase was announced in JobSeeker. Relatively small compared to what some advocacy groups want. What's your principle on this? Is this now at a fit and proper level for people to be able to survive, get by and apply for employment? Or would you like to increase it more when the Budget can afford it?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: What we've always said is that at each Budget we would assess all the settings, whether that be income support, whether that be other areas. What we've delivered in this Budget is an increase to the base rate of JobSeeker. If legislation goes through the Parliament, the 20 September indexation will be applied on top of that. So, that's a very important point, but it can't be seen in isolation either. It was complemented by the biggest increase in rent assistance in the last 30 years, it was also complemented by relief that will show up in people's energy bills. Of course, a really important part of the Budget as well as well as extending the eligibility for the higher rate of JobSeeker to those aged 55 to 59. These are all measures that are looking at how we best support and strengthen our safety net.
TOM CONNELL: Okay, so given those settings right now, obviously energy is a temporary one, but rent assistance is locked in. To ask it in another way, are the settings right now the right ones, the fairest ones? Is there still incentive to get into the workplace, but enough money to get a job, or were you held back by Budget constraints?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: We calibrated this in a really carefully targeted way and that was part of the design of this package. As we've said, with income support as well as all other areas of the Budget, we will assess any changes Budget to Budget.
TOM CONNELL: And that's what I'm asking about this Budget. Were you hamstrung by the amount that you could spend, either be it inflation or the Budget, or was this just the right package, right now and you didn't actually want to spend any more money? Because these are the right settings? That's the question?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: This is the right package, right now. Of course, every Budget has to look at the inflationary pressures that are on it, the other interactions with other parts of the payment system. Every Budget is about recalibrating the current circumstances. We saw that through COVID, for example. I can't predict what's going to happen in the years’ time. But this is a well calibrated budget that doesn't add to inflation and includes a strengthening of the safety net.
TOM CONNELL: Sounds like it might be revisted again, but not necessarily. I’ll take that from there. And you can disavow me of that if need be. Minister, appreciate your time today, thank you.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Thank you.