ACOSS analysis shows mutual obligation requirements are causing harm

28 April 2022

New analysis published by ACOSS today show that in a typical month, over 200,000 people have their income support payments suspended. This is nearly one in four people using jobactive services, and nearly half of these suspensions are because they cannot meet unrealistic job search targets.

Over 25 per cent of the people who are in jobactive already have some paid work and over two thirds have been looking for work for more than a year.

These figures reflect the high number of people who require income support because they are unable to get enough reliable or decently paid ongoing work to no longer need income support.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:

“Despite the low unemployment rate, employers are still reluctant to employ people who have been out of the paid work for more than 12 months, older workers, and people with disability.

Setting rigid job search targets so high – a default of 20 per month – is setting people up to fail. Unrealistic and inflexible targets have no place in employment services that are designed to help people and they are an inconvenience to employers.

There are over 850,000 people who have been on income support for over a year, and there are 440,000 people who are aged 45 years or older, 390,000 people have a disability, 120,000 sole carers for children, and 130,000 people are from First Nations communities.

“Many people locked out out of paid work long term find themselves at the back of the job queue, not because they aren’t trying, but because many employers are still wary of giving them a chance. Let us not forget that there are currently nine people receiving unemployment payments per entry level job available.”

ACOSS survey data found 66% of respondents reported that their payment was suspended because of errors made by employment service providers. A further one in three reported that they experienced high levels of stress when their payments were suspended even if for a short period of time.

ACOSS is aware that a new employment services model, Workforce Australia, is being introduced in July this year and remains concerned that it still contains major features that have been harmful to people in the past.

ACOSS calls on the next Government to put an end to unrealistic, rigid mutual obligation requirements as a high priority.

Background on the briefings

ACOSS has developed these snapshots as part of a series of briefings on mutual obligations to provide up to date information on the mutual obligation system, how it works and who it affects, including analysis of where the system is causing harm.