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Federally-funded marriage counselling is the wrong priority in a time of federal budget deficits

January 24th, 2014 at 12:28am

I’m not entirely against the idea, but while the federal government is dealing with continuous budget deficits it is a bad time to start handing out vouchers for marriage counselling.

NEWLYWEDS across Australia will be given a $200 voucher for marriage counselling from July 1, as part of a $20 million trial to strengthen relationships and avoid family breakdowns.

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews confirmed the Federal Government’s $200 voucher scheme would proceed with a 12-month trial of 100,000 couples starting on July 1.

The Federal Government believes the move will strengthen relationships, create more happiness and stability in the home and create a better environment for children.

“The evidence shows that strong relationships between parents make a substantial difference to a child,” Mr Andrews said.

(h/t The Courier Mail’s Laura Chalmers)

Based on current averages, the program’s 100,000 vouchers would be handed out to newlyweds within a year.

While Kevin Andrews is right that having children grow up with their biological parents in a loving household where the marriage of those parents is a strong and loving bond is by far the best option, I see two issues with the planned trial.

1. Newlyweds are the wrong target. If the vouchers are going to be handed out, they should be given to couples who are actually having problems, not couples who may or may not one day run in to problems.

2. The federal government currently spends more than it takes in. This is mostly due to the profligate spending of the Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard governments, however Tony Abbott’s government has not yet shown much initiative in reigning in the budget. An argument could be made that this program might lead to reduced federal benefits for single parents being paid to divorced parents at a future date, but it seems unlikely that this would save the federal budget much money, and the initial and ongoing expense of the program makes it the type of high cost to potentially minimal yield program which should be trialled when the budget is in a much stronger position.

Ultimately I’m not sure that the government really needs to be involved in this area at all, but if it insists on being involved, then this program should surely be of a much lower priority for implementation than reducing immediate spending and paying off the federal government’s debt.

Samuel

Entry Filed under: General News,Samuel's Editorials

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