Navigating the maze of complex eligibility requirements: understanding financial capabilities in the welfare state

Stream: Financial inclusion
Date: Monday, 9 September 2019
Time: 11.30 am – 12.30 pm


The concept of financial capabilities is becoming prominent in literature and policy that aims to understand the needs of disadvantaged members of the community. Australia is a clear example of this, with the concept of financial capability being integrated into the national financial literacy strategy.

This paper engages with the concept of financial capabilities from the perspective of non-governmental financial and welfare support service providers, and contributes to the growing discussion of how the concept can be used to understand the needs of disadvantaged individuals. Drawing from the capability approach, the literature on financial capabilities largely regards financial capabilities as the behaviours and financial knowledge required to help manage individuals day-to-day living expenses. With many individuals forced to navigate increasingly complex requirements to obtain welfare support, it is becoming clearer that this represents a skill in itself. Consequently, financial support service providers are increasingly necessary to assist disadvantaged individuals with the development of the financial capabilities which they need to navigate social welfare provision in the Australian welfare state.

This paper provides a framework for understanding the role that financial capabilities have to play in the neoliberal welfare economy, asking what kinds of financial capabilities are necessary for individuals to navigate the complex eligibility requirements they must meet in order to obtain welfare support.


Jeremiah Brown (Presenter), The Brotherhood of St Laurence
Jeremiah Brown is the ANZ Tony Nicholson Research Fellow at the Brotherhood of St Laurence. In 2018 he completed his doctorate at the University of Melbourne, with his thesis employing the capability approach to develop a new measure of democracy based upon a more expansive account of freedom. He is interested in the role that the capability approach can play in improving our understanding of individuals and their lives in the contemporary welfare state, with his most recent work focussing on disadvantaged individuals and their financial capabilities.