Falzon - SVDPWelfare bashing won’t work,  Australian St Vincent de Paul Society National Council CEO  tells Tony Abbott, current Prime Minister of Australia.

John Falzon says work for the dole had limited success and ‘blaming the poor for their poverty’ has no place in framing policy

Tony Abbott has been warned not to base his social welfare policy on “giving some therapeutic satisfaction to those who want to put the boot into people on welfare” by reinstating work for the dole.

chief executive Dr John Falzon is hoping to meet the social services minister, Kevin Andrews, and the human services minister, Marise Payne, in the coming weeks to warn them off returning to the work for the dole scheme.

“If your aim is a social and economic one, and that is to improve people’s chances of economic and social participation and to take them out of poverty and to meet the economic needs within the labour market, then you don’t do something like work for the dole,” he told Guardian Australia.

“You don’t succeed in building people up by putting them down and making them feel like they’re being exploited and are worth very little. That’s not to say there aren’t cases where it has been a useful stepping stone for some individuals but we’re talking about a fairly significant government program, and you don’t base a government program on some very, very limited successes.”

Work for the dole was phased out in the early stages of the first Rudd government but Abbott has signalled a return to the policy, which Falzon equates to welfare bashing.

“The principle of welfare bashing, of blaming the poor for their poverty, is completely and utterly ideologically driven and should have no place, not only in the political discourse but in the framing of our policies,” he said.

Falzon is also concerned about any plans to expand income management schemes, which restrict what people can buy with welfare.

He said such a program started as a way to “protect children” by ensuring money was spent on food and education but it had morphed into a program which was based on race when it was brought in as a blanket policy in the Northern Territory, and could soon expand to be based on class as well.

“We have to say it is disappointing one of the first policy directions of a new government is simply to rehash stuff that was clearly ineffectual and didn’t lead to any long-term employment participation outcomes,” he said.

“We had this argument with the Howard government, then we had the argument with the Rudd and Gillard governments for not differentiating themselves enough from some of those participation politics.

“It would be refreshing to be having a different argument.”

He said policy needed to be about economic and social outcomes rather than “giving some therapeutic satisfaction to those who want to put the boot into people on welfare”.

Falzon said policy in practice under John Howard did not improve entry rates for the unemployed into the workforce and the work for the dole programs rarely offered any training.

Falzon met Payne when she was in opposition and called the meeting “very productive” although he was disappointed at the time that the Coalition would not commit to a goal of halving homelessness by 2020.

Asked how hopeful he is of the new government listening to him, Falzon said: “We have to start from the premise that an incoming government will listen. It would be grossly unfair, it would be doing the incoming government a gross injustice, to start from the assumption that they’re not going to listen, that they’re deaf to what we have to say.”

He said that being optimistic did not mean he was confident the changes he would ask for – including a $50 increase in the Newstart allowance – would be implemented, and quickly.

Abbott said earlier in the week that the employment minister, Eric Abetz, would be responsible for “reinvigorating” the work for the dole program.

In the lead-up to the election the Coalition released a policy of reintroducing the program for people under 50 who have been on welfare for more than six months.

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