New CEDA report: it is time to disrupt disadvantage



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Better use of data to identify and help people before they fall into poverty and navigators to steer people to the services they need to break the circle of entrenched disadvantage are key recommendations in a CEDA report out today.

In releasing Disrupting disadvantage: setting the scene, CEDA CEO Melinda Cilento said with more than 700,000 Australians in income poverty for more than four years, it was clear that many policy responses and solutions are stuck.

“This is an area that needs policy disruption,” she said.

“Too many people remain persistently detached from the economic and social opportunities that should be available to all in a wealthy country such as Australia.

“Many of the most disadvantaged individuals and families do not have the capacity or capabilities to stitch together a safety net that supports them to gain employment and meaningfully reconnect with our economy and society. 

“The inadequacy of our social safety net, from Newstart payments below the poverty line and complex and siloed services and supports, are hindering not helping those most in need.  A more empathetic and proactive approach is needed.

“There is a clear consensus on the challenges with the current system, and emerging examples of how to do better.  However, we need to find ways to make effective solutions available more regularly and methodically.”

Ms Cilento said CEDA’s report was the first in a series that aimed to find long term solutions.  

“The greatest opportunity is to focus attention on prevention and policy investments to build pathways away from disadvantage at the earliest possible stages. 

“We are in the era of big data. If we are smart, the value we will extract through the increasing amount of data available will be through prevention rather than using it for compliance purposes,” she said.

“While there is work across some states to do this and to better link data, a significant investment in linking both at a Federal and state level and across states and territories could help prevent the next generation of disadvantage.

“This linked data could be used to find children at high risk of entrenched disadvantage at birth and provide the right services and supports to them and their household to positively influence their future life course.

 “In improving data collection and sharing, we recognise there are a range of important issues to consider and address, including the responsible collection and application of data, building and maintaining trust, and complementing data with human intelligence.

“It’s important that all of this is done well but also includes the right resourcing and commitment, led by a national champion.

 “The reality of disadvantage remains heavily concentrated in specific areas and these families are often disconnected from and unseen in mainstream society.

“The public narrative on this issue is often around blame and the bootstrap model of expecting our most disadvantaged to lift themselves out of poverty.

“However, a national champion could set the foundations for long-term progress by building momentum across all sectors and in turn delivering significant economic and social benefits.”

Ms Cilento said introducing navigators to help people work through the complex web of services and supports would also improve outcomes.

“Similar to the person-centric approach being adopted in other areas of human services, this would help ensure people access the right support at the right time and would increase focus on prevention rather than crisis management,” she said.

Ms Cilento said in addition to these two areas other priorities identified in the report included:

  • Investing in a stronger safety net; and
  • Better program evaluation.
“Evidence clearly shows that Newstart and Rental Assistance are failing to provide for adequate living standards,” she said.

“Their inadequacy is placing people well below the poverty line and increasing the risk of entrenched disadvantage.

“While there is a cost to increase these allowances to the Budget there is likely a bigger cost long term to not increasing them.

“There is also a need to seriously re-energise an evaluation culture as too often program funding has been at the whim of political and budget cycles and too little weight given to evidence and outcomes.

“Many services in this space are costing too much and are not delivering the results we need.

“There are social and economic costs to the broader community and to Federal and State Governments, not just those in disadvantage.

“If we’re to learn from mistakes and promote best practice in overcoming disadvantage, we need to get serious about evidence and implementation through robust and transparent program evaluation.”

Download full report: Disrupting disadvantage: setting the scene 
Download brochure: Disrupting disadvantage: setting the scene 


Further information:
Melinda Cilento is available for further comment and interviews. The report can be downloaded here.

Research release event series

The launch of this report will be followed by events across Australia on the following dates:
Brisbane – 13 Nov | Sydney – 14 Nov | Adelaide – 25 Nov | Perth – 26 Nov | Melbourne – 5 Dec

Media contacts:
Roxanne Punton, Director, External Affairs                           
Mobile: 0409 532 287 | Email:
Eleanor Green, Media and Communications Advisor
Mobile: 0408 375 600 | Email:

About CEDA:

CEDA – the Committee for Economic Development of Australia – is an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation. We identify policy issues that matter for Australia’s future and pursue solutions that deliver better economic, social and environmental outcomes for Australia. CEDA's cross-sector membership of 770 spans every state and territory and includes Australia's leading businesses, community organisations, government departments and academic institutions. CEDA was founded in 1960 by leading economist Sir Douglas Copland. His legacy of applying economic analysis to practical problems to aid the development of Australia continues to drive our work today.