Social Services Amendment Bill: On the Senate Agenda for Monday 12th October

Dear All,

So for the fourth time it looks like the Social Services Amendment Bill has been placed onto the Senate's legislative agenda for Monday 12th October

If you have any time today or over the weekend can I suggest that you begin emailing the new Social Services Minister The Hon Mr Christian Porter

Minister Porter's Email Address is

Minister@dss.gov.au

 

Please feel free to use this proforma response included below:

 

Hon Christian Porter MP

Minister for Social Services 

Parliament House 

Canberra

minister@dss.gov.au

 

 

(Date)

 

Dear Minister,

re:  Social Services Amendment Bill 2015.

I am writing to you to ask that you withdraw this Bill.

I understand that the Government has placed the Bill on the Senate’s legislative agenda three times now and on all occasions it has not proceeded to a vote.  In August when the Bill was debated in the Senate, Labour, the Greens and a number of cross bench Senators spoke against the Bill.

The position of the Senators who spoke against the Bill is consistent with all but one of the submissions to the Senate Enquiry regarding this piece of legislation. 

The Public Advocate of South Australia in his submission to the Senate Enquiry wrote that there had been a failure to articulate a sound justification for the Bill: 

  • By making this amendment the Government will discriminate against people whohave a mental illness or cognitive disability. While s51 (1) (d), Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) might permit the Social Security Act to include discriminatory provisions; this places a greater obligation on the Parliament to articulate a sound justification for any such provisions. In this submission it is explained why there is no such justification for discrimination in these circumstances.

The Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health noted that the most significant impact of the Bill is likely to be in relation to housing. Housing is essential to obtain access to overnight leave and income is essential to obtain access to housing. The structure of the proposal, with no entitlement to income support until a person has three nights per week of overnight leave, makes it impossible for forensic patients to obtain housing in order to be granted overnight leave. Without social security payments, patients will not be able to fund rental bonds, rent payments, aged care costs, furniture, utility connection fees and other essentials.  This will impede recovery and rehabilitation and progress through the Hospital.

The Aboriginal Disability Justice Campaign highlighted the impact on Indigenous Australians with mental health disorders and cognitive impairments.  In their supplementary submission to the Senate Inquiry, the ADJC also took issue with the Department of Social Services statement that the Franks decision of 2002 was “not reflective of the original intent of the legislation.”

It seems reasonable to conclude given this set of 2012 circumstances that legislative intent and policy practice may have become blurred in the case by case application of 1158(b). What the DSS Submission failed to illuminate when stating, “Prior to 2002, most people undergoing psychiatric confinement could not receive social security payments”, was the legislative history was clear that disentitlement only applied to people in psychiatric confinement who were convicted of a crime.

Contrary to the policy intent, if passed this Bill will reinforce institutional dependency and long-term costs to government.  I ask that you permanently abandon the Social Services Amendment Bill and cognate legislation.

Yours sincerely,

(Name)

 

Kind Regards

Patrick McGee

ADJC Coordinator

0448 610 105