Community Sector Slams ‘Demoralising’ Employment Plan
29 July 2014 at 9:24 am
The community sector has attacked the Federal Government’s proposed employment services model, including “work for the dole”, describing it as demoralising, one-sided and harsh.
The Coalition Government has released its exposure draft of the purchasing arrangements for a new employment services model – a $5.1 billion investment over three years from July 1, 2015 – which includes the new Work for the Dole scheme.
Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker said as part of the new model, most job seekers would be required to look for up to 40 jobs per month and most job seekers under 50 years of age would be required to participate in Work for the Dole for either 15 or 25 hours per week for six months each year, depending on their age.
Hartsuyker said the new model provided clearer incentives to ensure job seekers and employers received high-quality services from providers.
“Fees and payments to providers have been restructured to promote a stronger focus on meeting the needs of employers and achieving longer-term job outcomes. There will be a flat administration fee paid in advance every six months and a sliding scale of outcome payments at four, 12 and 26 weeks,” he said.
“New wage subsidies will encourage employers to hire, train and retain job seekers. This includes the Restart subsidy for mature age workers, a subsidy to support young job seekers under 30 and a new subsidy to assist the long-term unemployed.
“New targets for Indigenous job seekers will be introduced to ensure that more Indigenous Australians are in work and reaping the benefits of a job.”
However Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) described the changes as “one-sided and harsh” and said the Government was investing too little to make a difference and expected jobseekers to undertake activities that would not help them get a job.
“New requirements appear to be designed to make unemployment unattractive rather than assist people obtaining employment,” ACOSS Chief Executive Officer Cassandra Goldie said.
“There is too much activity for activity’s sake and not enough flexible investment in what works such as wage subsidies and vocational training relevant to the labour market.
“The proposed expansion of the Work for the Dole program is likely to be expensive and ineffective. At least $1,500 per person is being invested in this program despite less one in four jobseekers getting a job after Work for the Dole.
“The doubling of the number of jobs people have to search for – from five to 10 jobs a week – is likely to be self-defeating and demoralising. It reflects thinking that jobseekers are mainly responsible for their own unemployment regardless of the availability of jobs or the individual’s personal circumstances. Missing is an equal onus on government to invest in strengthening people’s employment capacity.
“Capacity building is especially vital given that most people are now unemployed for over 12 months and half for over two years. Over 100,000 people have an assessed disability and another 100,000 are sole parents.”
Welfare services Not for Profit Anglicare Australia’s acting Executive Director Roland Manderson said he would be pleased if more money were to be injected into supporting people into work but warned that pushing them into low paid, short-term work, or merely applying for jobs they cannot win, is not the solution.
“Our recent research paper, Beyond Supply and Demand, is the evidence from the Anglicare network of what does and doesn’t make a difference. Certainly that’s why we support the decision to extend wage subsidies to young people and the long-term unemployed, and to give up on training for training’s sake,” Manderson said.
“Beyond Supply and Demand tells us that we need employment services that deal with people individually, recognising their capacities and the circumstances they live with. One concern with the announcement today is that the flexibility and innovation it talks about may benefit the job services but not the job seekers.
“Also there are barriers to employment that a one size fits all approach doesn’t recognise.
“As people with disability or an illness, or the old or the young will tell you: far too often the jobs aren’t there. In that case, requiring people to work for the dole and apply for 40 jobs a month is merely a pathway to demoralisation. A better approach is to work with employers to create jobs with a long-term future and then support the jobseeker into them while they get going.
“Anglicare Australia is pleased to see investment in job services that do provide real opportunities for people excluded from the workforce. However, the planned increase in the obligations of jobseekers is unlikely to help them.”
Hartsuyker said the new model also included reforms to help job providers run their businesses more efficiently and effectively.
“The new employment services contract will be for five years and a new mid-term adjustment for Employment Providers will be introduced so services can be maintained over the life of the contract,” Hartsuyker said.
“The number of employment regions will be reduced and a new regional loading will be introduced for Employment Providers in certain regions in recognition that labour market conditions vary across Australia.
“There will also be a significant reduction in red-tape and greater flexibility so that providers can tailor services to the needs of job seekers and providers.”
Dr Cassandra Goldie said the new model appeared to provide more flexibility for providers to invest in individual jobseekers through reduced red tape but was dominated by a single program, Work for the Dole.
“This focus creates an ‘inflexible flexibility’ that overshadows other activities,” she said.
“We need to see greater investment in employment capacity building to ensure assistance is individualised rather than standardised. For instance, funds available to providers to invest in training and other help for people disadvantaged in the labour market range between just $850 – $1200 per year and access to vocational training will be much more limited than at present.
“Simply increasing job search requirements and increasing punishments without added investment will make it tougher for people looking for work, and skews the mutual obligation model against the very people the employment services system is meant to support.”
Jobs Australia, the peak body for Not for Profits that assist unemployed people find work, has welcomed some of the Government’s proposed changes including: fewer minimum requirements for employment service providers; a greater portion of the funding model contingent on the achievement of employment outcomes; longer contracts with five years with a mid-term price adjustment; providers in regional areas having extra resources to support the higher costs of service delivery in those areas; and a greater emphasis on working with employers.
Jobs Australia said it was still analysing the full implications for employment services providers, however it was clear the model would give providers much more discretion about the way they work with job seekers.
“The good thing about these reforms is that it will mean the organisations that are committed to helping people into work will have the opportunity to design their own service models for doing that,” Jobs Australia Chief Executive Officer David Thompson said.
“It is the people who work with disadvantaged job seekers every day who have the best understanding of their needs and are best placed to work out what training, programmes and other supports are most likely to help any individual into a job.”
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Comments on the proposed arrangements close on August 25. For more information, visit www.employment.gov.au