No Evidence Forced Waiting for Dole Will Work
6 August 2015 at 12:02 pm
Officials from the Department of Social Services have admitted there is no international evidence that the Abbott Government’s controversial plan to make young people wait an extra four weeks before being able to access income support will help them to find work.
At yesterday’s Senate Committee hearing on the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill, DSS representatives were asked repeatedly by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert to provide evidence that the four week waiting period would boost employment.
Group Manager of Payments Policy at the DSS, Cath Halbert, conceded the policy was not based on any international evidence.
“The Government’s view is that young people should be encouraged to look for work in the first instance rather than turning to income support,” Halbert said.
“[The] Government’s objective in bringing forward this proposal around the waiting period is to send a very strong message to young people, young job ready people who are able to immediately look for work, that that’s what they should be doing in the first instance rather than relying on income support while they’re undertaking those activities. It’s a policy objective.
“We don’t have evidence that’s directly comparable to this particular policy, which of course has not yet been implemented.”
|Cath Halbert from the DSS gives evidence at the Senate Committee hearing.|
Senator Siewert told Pro Bono Australia News after the hearing that the Government should not be pushing forward measures that were not proven to have any positive impact on youth employment.
“It’s ideologically motivated and they’re coming from a punitive approach. We don’t need to be forcing people to live on nothing for four weeks, especially when they couldn’t quote any international evidence that it will even work,” Senator Siewert said.
“The social sector’s clearly saying they don’t support the majority of the measures in the Bill.
“(What the social sector) is saying is this is going to create problems for young people and will have detrimental impacts as well. The evidence is pretty clear I think that it is going to have a significant impact.”
The hearing also heard it was expected that 75,000 people would serve 85,000 waiting periods, as some people will serve more than one, while 83,000 will be exempt from being forced to wait for income support.
ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja, who was Chairing the hearing, pointed out that “there would be more people getting an exemption than serving a four week waiting period”.
Senator Siewert said this was a “nonsense” defense of the new measures, and that by setting aside $8.1 million for emergency relief the Government was showing that it was aware that it would be placing young people in unnecessary hardship.
President of the National Welfare Rights Network, Kate Beaumont, who also gave evidence at the hearing, said young people would be scarred if the Bill was passed.
“While the new policy is not as punitive as last year's offering which would have made job seekers under 30 wait six months without payment, it would still place 75,000 young people in severe financial hardship, leaving them without food and money to pay their rent,” Beaumont said.
“The Bill will also tighten eligibility for the one week waiting period and increase the eligibility age for the Newstart Allowance to the age of 25. Many people will serve at least 5-weeks of waiting periods and young unemployed people aged 22 to 24, who will no longer be eligible for the higher Newstart Allowance or Sickness Allowance, will be left with up to $48 a week less.
“We need to avoid scarring tens of thousands of young people each and every year with a raft of harsh and punitive social security policies that basically blame them for the failures of the labour market to provide sufficient jobs for all those that want them.”
Shadow Minister for Families and Payments, Jenny Macklin, said Labor would be fighting against the Bill.
“Despite having no evidence to support its policy and widespread condemnation from the welfare sector, the Abbott Government is continuing with its cruel cuts to young jobseekers,” Macklin said.
“If Tony Abbott gets his way young jobseekers under 25 will be pushed into poverty and hardship.
“Whether for one month or six, Labor will not support a measure which pushes young people into poverty and additional hardship.”
Senator Siewert said she was hopeful that the crossbench Senators would help block the Bill if it was brought to a vote.
The Senate Committee is due to hand down its report next week.