A Catholic social worker has been ordered to stop talking about a controversial social welfare scheme as she looks set to lose her job.
The Social Services Minister told her she had to stop.
The order came after a senior social worker told her a programme was being “scrambled” by Catholic bishops to save the charity.
The Catholic Social Services Authority (CSSA) said it was reviewing the order and asked Ms St. Catherine’s to come to its meeting on Monday to discuss the issue.
“We will be making the necessary changes to address the matter, which we will take care of when the appropriate time comes,” it said in a statement.
“The CSSA is not aware of any breaches of this order.”
Ms St-Catherine, who has worked at the CSSA for 15 years, was told by the senior social work officer to stop discussing the scheme, which is funded by the Department of Social Protection.
The minister said she was not allowed to discuss it.
“It is not a conversation we want to have,” she said.
The CSSA told the ABC it was investigating the matter and taking a “stronger stance”.
The organisation is the only one of about 500 social workers in Australia to be subject to the directive, which allows for the sharing of information about social welfare schemes.
It was originally established in the 1980s, when the then prime minister Paul Keating was running for the premiership.
The scheme, known as Social Security Age Payment (SAAP), was set up to help older Australians save money and get on with their lives.
The programme provides support to people aged 65 and over who are in receipt of Social Security benefits.
The government estimates about 30,000 older Australians receive SAAP.
However, the scheme is also controversial because of concerns about the cost and lack of detail about how it was funded.
Social Services Department secretary Paul McQuaid said Ms St‑Catherine was being punished for not discussing the issue with the CSSAs senior social workers.
He said it could result in a breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct for CSSA staff.
“I would urge that the minister takes into account that the CSSSA’s senior social care workers have to deal with a number of complex and sensitive issues including the issue of funding and the way that funds are allocated,” Mr McQuays said.
“That includes a review of the way in which SAAP was administered, and how it is currently funded.”
Ms Cavanaugh said she would be appealing the decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
She said she has already been warned about the decision, but had not received a formal warning.
She has been told by CSSA to stop working on the scheme.
She also has concerns about how much money is being spent on the programme and what it is used for.
“This is the first time I have been asked to make a speech about this, and I am not really sure how this is being funded, how it’s being administered, or how much it’s actually saving people,” she told the Four Four Two program.
“There’s no way I am going to talk about it without it going to the tribunal, and then I have to start working on another speech, because I’m not going to be able to talk at all.”
A spokeswoman for Ms St Catherine said she had been told to stop speaking about the issue, which she had already discussed with the senior director of social work.
“Our work is very complex and it is really important that we keep working together in a way that does not cause undue distraction,” she wrote.
The decision comes after the Government announced it would introduce a new social welfare entitlement, SAAP Plus, for those aged 65-plus who can prove they are in poverty and do not qualify for the Old Age Pension.
This new scheme will cost $5.6 billion over five years and be funded by a $10 billion injection of government money.
The new plan would allow people to receive a higher level of support, but it would not cover the cost of living increases that would have come with the change.
It will be introduced in December.
It is expected to raise $2.5 billion for the program over the five years, but that will depend on the Government collecting and redistributing some of the money.
Social Security Minister Peter Dutton said the Government had committed to saving $2 billion a year.
“As part of that, we will spend more than $2billion a year in SAAP, and that will be put into SAAP plus for older Australians in the future,” he said.
Ms St Catherine is expected in Adelaide on Monday.
A spokesperson for CSBS said it had not heard from Ms St Catchers boss.