A suggestion homeless people should have their incomes managed by the government has been labelled "discriminatory" by Illawarra social service agencies.
A federal reference group on welfare reform, chaired by former Mission Australia CEO Patrick McClure, recently released a report raising the possibility of placing the homeless, job seekers and disadvantaged young people under income management, quarantining welfare payments for basic items such as rent, groceries and bills.
"As a temporary measure, it makes sense for individuals and families whose lives are in crisis," Mr McClure said at a function last week.
Local social agencies have slammed the notion, saying the welfare reform group missed a crucial point about living on government payments.
"It's not people aren't managing their money well, the problem is people are not given enough to manage anyway," said Maxyne Graham, manager of Warrawong Residents Forum.
"It's discriminatory. Most people manage their money quite well, but we need a bigger safety net, especially in the Illawarra."
The report states income management is a way to maximise the effect of welfare payments, and limit funds available "for harmful activities involving alcohol, drugs, pornography and gambling".
Michael Irvine, Wollongong special works co-ordinator for St Vincent de Paul, said more support should be directed to help the people manage their own finances, rather than compulsory income management.
"The homeless are already one of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in our community, and it's a dependency issue if they don't learn how to look after themselves," Mr Irvine said.
"We encourage people to have skills to look after themselves. We're happy to support, but they should make their own decisions based on their own circumstances."
CEO of Southern Youth and Family Services Narelle Clay raised the same objections.
"I wonder where the capacity to learn and develop responsibility comes from," Ms Clay asked.
"The report doesn't deal with the issue that payments are too low. You can't budget well if you don't have enough to start with."