Remote Work-for-the-Dole Program Under Review
15 December 2017 at 10:25 am
The federal government’s controversial work-for-the-dole Community Development Program (CDP) is set to come under review, with the launch of a discussion paper on future arrangements for the scheme.
The CDP is a scheme which looks to support remote job seekers to “build skills, address barriers and contribute to their communities through a range of flexible activities”.
But the program came under heavy scrutiny at a recent senate inquiry, with concerns voiced around unrealistic participation expectations and harsh penalties leaving people without funds.
On Thursday the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, announced the launch of a formal consultation on a new employment and participation model for remote Australia.
“Supporting people in remote Australia to gain skills and find jobs delivers many benefits – for themselves, their families and the broader community,” Scullion said.
“I am committed to ensuring job seekers in remote Australia are supported to get the training and work experience they need to transition into a job and make a contribution to their community. It is essential that reforms are developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and remote communities, so I encourage people to share their views.
“The discussion paper explores how to grow the remote labour market, provide more incentives to job seekers, give communities more control and greater decision-making, and improve the support available to job seekers so they can move from welfare and into work.”
One of the options for a new scheme would be for a more simplified system, “relying less on a national welfare system, and more on local control and decision making”.
This could include a wage-based model which provides weekly payments to job seekers.
Under the current scheme, CDP participants must do 25 hours per week of “work-like” activities to receive welfare payments – which is up to three times longer than what’s required for unemployed people in metropolitan areas.
Scheme participants were fined one day’s Centrelink allowance if they missed one of their scheduled activities or are late.
But the recent senate inquiry heard these punishments were unreasonable, due to the long distances people often had to travel to meet their work commitments.
Scullion said the consultation would guide the development of a new employment program “expanding on the success of the CDP”.
“The CDP has supported remote job seekers into over 21,000 jobs and overturned the failures of Labor’s Remote Jobs and Communities Program (RJCP) which saw attendance under the program drop to 6 per cent,” he said.
“However, more needs to be done to maintain the momentum to get people into work.
“I am committed to a broad consultation and will continue to engage on remote employment widely, including with remote communities, job seekers, the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, Empowered Communities leaders and CDP providers.”
But in wake of the Senate inquiry findings, Labor has attacked the CDP scheme. In a joint statement from Labor senators Jenny McAllister, Patrick Dodson, Sue Lines and Malarndirri McCarthy, they said this review was needed to address “the failure of the CDP program”.
“Less than six weeks ago the minister [Scullion] was praising CDP as a success but in a complete turnaround, reports of a CDP discussion paper released today show the government has conceded the multiple failings of CDP,” they said.
“The minister’s belated discussion paper on proposed changes does not take into account the damage the discriminatory CDP continues to cause on communities.
“The reality is many people on communities will still go hungry this Christmas because of the minister’s failure to deal with this discriminatory and punitive CDP program.”
Discussion paper submissions are open to the public until Friday 9 February 2018.