Welfare Changes Causing Anxiety for Jobseekers
1 October 2018 at 3:23 pm
Misinformation and confusion about changes to participation requirements for welfare recipients is causing anxiety and concern for jobseekers.
The federal government recently increased the amount of time older jobseekers must spend on activities such as work-for-the-dole, paid or voluntary work, and training.
But Volunteering Australia acting CEO Lavanya Kala told Pro Bono News communication to jobseekers and service providers on the changes had been poor.
“The volunteering sector has received many enquiries from confused people who have received contradictory information, unsure where to seek the correct information and who are worried about their payments being affected,” Kala said.
“[Even though] there has been months to prepare and communicate to the public about what the changes are, how they will be introduced and who will be affected.”
As of September 20, job seekers aged 55 to 59 who previously had to do 30 hours per fortnight of voluntary work, must now do at least half of these hours as paid work.
Those aged 30 to 49 will need to work for 50 hours a fortnight rather than 30. And those over 60 will for the first time have to work 10 hours per fortnight.
Kala said jobseekers were cutting back their volunteer hours in fear of not meeting their obligations and losing income support.
“Service providers engaged with employment services state there is a lack of clarity on the changes and varying information coming from Centrelink,” Kala said.
“This is not only having an impact on jobseekers who find engaging in volunteering deeply beneficial, but organisations reliant on the generous contributions of volunteers.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Jobs and Small Business, which maintains the policy, told Pro Bono News the department has put in a number of measures to help jobseekers understand the changes.
This includes sending SMS messages to those potentially affected, providing staff at its national customer service line with information on how the changes could apply to jobseekers, and publishing the changes in advance online.
“The [department] is constantly monitoring and, if necessary, reviewing information on its and other Australian government websites to ensure that information provided to people looking for work is as accurate and up-to-date as possible,” the spokesperson said.
Kala said while Volunteering Australia appreciated attempts were now being made to update information and redirect enquiries, more could be done.
“We would like to see communications circulated nationally to inform both the public and service providers about the changes,” she said.
“Our goal is that jobseekers, service providers and volunteer involving organisations are not adversely affected by the changes.”