Q&A: 16-year-old carer on $8 a day confronts government minister

Christian Porter talked tough on welfare during <i>Q&A</i> but one question held him up.

Christian Porter talked tough on welfare during Q&A but one question held him up. Photo: ABC

Social Services Minister Christian Porter told the Q&A audience that “self-reliance” is the government’s most vital welfare goal, before he was stopped in his tracks by a student carer earning $8 a day.

Rose Cox, 16, who cares for her quadriplegic mother, told Mr Porter she wanted to be more optimistic for her future than she currently was.

“I don’t want to be seen as a burden on the government, nor do I wish to be welfare dependent for my lifetime,” Rose told Mr Porter.

“[But] how will a change to payments and a blanket policy help understand the very unique and often stressful experiences of young carers like myself and my sister?”

Watch the exchange:

The line of questioning drew a long and considered response from Mr Porter, who earlier in the night had said he wanted to consult widely to create a system which encouraged self-reliance.

He said the welfare system was changing to make things better for Rose, and not worse.

“We’ve targeted and identified three groups; young parents, young carers, a group of 11,200, and young students, a group of about 6000.

“Through the data analysis we’ve identified that these groups have the worst outcomes in terms of the way in which they are able to transition into and maintain employment for long periods.

q&a welfare

Rose’s question caused plenty of debate. Photo: ABC

“We are going out to the non-government sector, not for profits, any organisation who believes they have an idea. We will structure with them the measurements using this data, where the sole and most important criteria is – how do people become self-reliant compared to an average or control sample?”

However “self-reliance” seemed difficult in Rose’s current predicament, given she was juggling study with caring and had little time to work.

In September, Mr Porter announced an initiative to tackle what he branded as Australia’s welfare cost blowout.

It was part of the government’s plan to break long-term welfare dependency and address the welfare bill that Australia faces in the future.

A decision to outsource potential solutions is based on a New Zealand model, structured to intervene and address at-risk groups quickly.

Q&A Eva Cox

Eva Cox debated Christian Porter passionately throughout the evening. Photo: ABC

Author and social welfare analyst Eva Cox was less than impressed with the government’s plan, another component of which rested heavily on a Price Waterhouse Coopers report.

“Well, I think if you give a whole pile of data to people who are basically accountants they come back with something that looks like an accounting thing which has lots of columns and not very much humanity built into it,” Ms Cox said.

“I’m saying that because I’ve looked at this particular report and it’s got some weird things in it.

“We’ve got something like five to seven people looking for jobs for every vacancy there is. So there’s a serious issue about how do you actually move people into the workforce.”

Ms Cox also argued there were problems when it came to employers, who she alleged showed “prejudice” toward certain people in the community on welfare and looking for a job.

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