Sunday, May 16, 2010

Compulsory Income Management: Evidence based" social policy that ignores the evidence

The Rudd Government and the responsible Minister Jenny Macklin continue to claim that compulsory income management delivers substantial benefits for all Aboriginal people subject to it, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

A number of recent reports, cited in this piece by Eva Cox, show there is little hard evidence for the benefits claimed by the Minister and in fact, signs of potential long term harms for many people. Eva Cox cites a study published today in the Medical Journal of Australia that challenges a central tenet of compulsory income management- that people's spending habits will be modified in a positive way with mandatory restrictions on expenditure alone. The study led by researchers from the Menzies School of Health Research found that income management is not associated with healthier food and drink purchases and may be having no effect on tobacco sales The researchers write:

"However, in contrast to the government report, we found that spending on food and drinks and fruit and vegetables did not change with income management. Soft drinks sales increased.

The one time during income management that spending went up for all store commodities was when people actually had more money: at the time of the government stimulus payment.

Telling people of low income how they can use 50% of their income may make no difference to their spending, but giving a lump of cash does".

The researchers view is that Government's claims of improved food choices, specifically more fresh and more healthy food being purchased, are linked to the new licensing of stores in these communities -- not income management.

The negative effects of compulsory management income for Aboriginal people are documented in a report by the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning. The reports summarises the types of problems being experienced on the ground, including lack of pathways out of compulsory income management, no evidence that compulsory income management has resulted in better nutrition, no improved financial capacity and reduced investment in social services. The report also describes human rights violations, lack of quantitative data, failure to meaningfully engage Aboriginal communities, problems with implementation and associated costs.

No comments: