Demands for Jobactive Overhaul
19 February 2019 at 5:21 pm
The government’s outsourced jobseeker program has been slammed by a Senate committee, which found the scheme did not help people find work and in some cases acted as a barrier to employment.
The committee’s report into Jobactive said there was clear evidence the program was not fit for purpose or delivering on its stated objectives.
“Participants are gaining employment in spite of Jobactive, not because of it,” the report said.
“And many participants are suffering because of the program’s punitive compliance arrangements. Providers are overburdened with red-tape and consultants are struggling to help participants whilst also policing compliance requirements.”
The $7.3 billion scheme has come under constant fire for its punitive approach to welfare, imposing 5.2 million penalties on jobseekers since it began in July 2015.
During the Senate inquiry into Jobactive – which requires welfare recipients to attend meetings with private job service providers – it was revealed employment consultants weren’t required to hold any formal qualifications but had the power to cut welfare payments.
Recognising that the government has already agreed to review Jobactive, the committee report said a future system must help all job seekers find and keep a job.
It also recommended a review into the rate of Newstart to help keep people out of poverty.
The gvt has incentivised Jobactive providers to ensure people are not accessing welfare. Jobactive providers are financially incentived to either breach Centrelink clients or reward them with Employment Fund money for reporting in a way that the agency achieve government bonuses
— Asher Wolf (@Asher_Wolf) February 17, 2019
The report noted several problems with Jobactive, including people being assessed as “job ready” when they had barriers to employment such as homelessness, participants missing paid work to attend appointments with their Jobactive provider, and administrative errors causing people to unfairly lose their income payments.
In October last year, an Australian Council of Social Service survey of 311 people using Jobactive found only 8 per cent were satisfied with the program.
ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie told Pro Bono News Jobactive was a “harsh bureaucratic nightmare” for participants that often did not help them get work.
She recommended the government commit $500 million of funding in the upcoming budget to raise employment service funding up to at least half the OECD average level.
“Job agencies should have enough resources to work with people in a positive way, so that employment consultants no longer have to help 150 people at once, and people get the training and paid work experience they need,” Goldie said.
“It’s not all about funding levels. The harsh and unreasonable conditions now forced onto people are making life harder and harder for people trying to break into getting a job, and impacting on their mental health.”
Jobactive is a broken system. Because a low paid and poorly trained worker in a private employment service provider has got this unemployed worker’s phone number wrong they have cut off their income support and won’t fix it. We can’t let this continue. #auspol https://t.co/soJnqAr7zF
— Emma Dawson (@DawsonEJ) February 15, 2019
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, who sat on the committee, called for work-for-the-dole and the Targeted Compliance Framework (TCF) to be scrapped.
“The government has taken an ideological approach to unemployment framing it as a personal moral failing of individuals rather than addressing the systemic issues such as poverty, intergenerational trauma and job market conditions,” Siewert said.
“Until poverty is recognised as a barrier to employment by both major parties it will be difficult to fully resolve the issues that have been raised through the Jobactive inquiry process.”
But Coalition senators defended the program in a dissenting report. While noting Jobactive was “far from perfect”, they said it had performed well and at a lower cost compared to previous programs.
Their report said around half of Jobactive job seekers were in work three months after participating in the program compared to 42.5 per cent of people using the previous Job Services Australia model.
Labor meanwhile has announced plans for a revamped mutual obligation scheme, which focuses on job programs less about welfare compliance and more about finding long-term employment.