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CDP Fines Causing Stress and Anxiety for Indigenous Job Seekers


Thursday, 7th February 2019 at 4:34 pm
Luke Michael, Journalist
Financial penalties given to participants of the government’s controversial remote work-for-the-dole scheme are causing increased stress, anxiety and mental health problems for job seekers, a government-commissioned review of the program has found.


Thursday, 7th February 2019
at 4:34 pm
Luke Michael, Journalist


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CDP Fines Causing Stress and Anxiety for Indigenous Job Seekers
Thursday, 7th February 2019 at 4:34 pm

Financial penalties given to participants of the government’s controversial remote work-for-the-dole scheme are causing increased stress, anxiety and mental health problems for job seekers, a government-commissioned review of the program has found.

The evaluation of the Community Development Program (CDP) surveyed community members, CDP providers and stakeholders across eight remote communities, finding that 36 per cent of participants believed their communities were worse off under the scheme.

CDP participants – of whom more than 80 per cent are Indigenous – must do 25 hours per week of “work-like” activities to receive welfare payments and are fined one day’s Centrelink allowance if they miss one of their scheduled activities or are late.

Researchers found no evidence that penalties were an effective way to generate engagement in work-for-the-dole activities or develop participants’ job readiness or employability.

“In fact, this research found that for some job seekers, penalisation has the opposite effect: it demotivates and disempowers them so they may attend but do not engage in the activities or they view CDP as ‘sit down for sit down money’,” the report said.

The evaluation noted that job seekers were frustrated when navigating the Centrelink and CDP systems after financial penalties were applied for non-attendance.

Both the community member survey results and community stakeholder interviews reflected the view that this contributed to “increased stress, anxiety and mental health problems for job seekers”.

A number of CDP job seekers said they felt like they had no control over their lives and no choice, which impacted on their mental health.

Some CDP service providers and stakeholder interviews even said the program had affected a few young people so much that “some were said to prefer going to jail or to have attempted to end their lives or suicided”.

“The penalties and pointless activities have added another nail in the coffin to young people. It’s just another layer of government crap in their lives that they have to deal with,” an interviewed stakeholder said.

The CDP has consistently come under fire for enforcing excessive penalties, and last year it was uncovered more than 350,000 fines had been handed out to 33,000 CDP participants, while figures from 1 April to 30 June 2017 revealed 52,813 financial penalties were issued during this period alone.

This latest evaluation has again prompted calls from welfare advocates to scrap the program.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert questioned why remote Indigenous people were subjected to a work-for-the-dole scheme that was far harsher and more punitive than their city counterparts.

“Only CDP participants have an obligation every day and copped significant penalties and payments,” Siewert said.

“The evaluation shows that CDP participants that identify as Indigenous were estimated to be 3.3 times more likely than other participants to experience a penalty, and 2.7 times more likely to go on to completely lose their payment.”

Australian Council of Social Service CEO Cassandra Goldie said the government should join the opposition by agreeing to abolish the “discriminatory program”.

“We have a clear solution in the Fair Work model developed by Aboriginal-led organisations. We call on both major parties to commit to implementing this model so that local communities have control and are the drivers of reform,” Goldie said.

Jobs Australia, the national peak body for not-for-profit employment, echoed this call.

CEO Debra Cerasa said it was shocking so many Indigenous people received financial penalties in a program supposed to make their lives better.

“This evaluation has shown that about a third of participants are penalised, and one in 10 of these lost 20 per cent or more of their quarterly payments,” Cerasa said.

“Many have difficulties navigating the CDP and compliance systems, while others have health issues that are not properly assessed and considered.”

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion last month announced the government was rolling out reforms to the CDP from March this year aimed at reducing penalties for job seekers, after a broader suite of reforms failed to pass Parliament.   


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.


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