Australia could learn from NZ on welfare

Better targeting those with future social support needs could deliver billions of dollars in budget savings and better outcomes for those within Australia’s social security system, the Actuaries Institute believes.

A paper published by actuary Dr Hugh Miller found that only moderate changes would be needed to improve social support enough for the above improvements, with there being “clear opportunities” for local, state, and federal governments to speed up advancements.

One such change could be improving data collection, which Miller labelled as “piecemeal” in Australia. He said there were currently significant barriers to linking together information across health, housing, education and disability support, in addition to the state and Commonwealth divide hindering better data analysis.

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Miller proposed using data to see long-term patterns of service use, which could improve targeting of services and early intervention. This could then provide “significant impetus” to focus on prevention to improve the pathways of those receiving social security support.

Miller pointed to New Zealand as an exemplar in this area, as its Government’s ability to collect and link key datasets while maintaining privacy protections had allowed it to make significant advancements in the efficacy of its social welfare.

The Government’s long-term approach to welfare spending, which involved early and better intervention, had seen it reduce future benefit costs by 14 per cent over six years, which meant fewer people were on income support and for shorter periods of time.

“Moderate gains that lead to improved pathways for people would result in annual savings to government budgets that would be measured in the billions,” Miller said.

“Most importantly, a large portion of the savings comes from better outcomes for individuals who might move into active employment, sustain their housing situation, or reduce their criminal offending. This means they have better options for a fulfilled life.”

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