Ramp up Help for Long Term Jobseekers

11 June 2009

“With the national unemployment rate at 5.7%, ACOSS is saddened to see an extra 27,200 Australians out of work,” said Clare Martin, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service.

The Government has announced welcome initiatives to sustain and maintain jobs through the $300 million to assist newly retrenched workers, and nation building infrastructure projects such as $6 billion for public housing, $14.7 billion for school upgrades and the home insulation rebates.

While newly unemployed people have received assistance, ACOSS is calling on the Government to provide more help for long term jobseekers.

ACOSS has flagged several options to assist long term unemployed people at today’s Senate Inquiry into the tender process to award employment services contracts.

“With more people on the unemployment queue for longer periods, ACOSS is calling on the Government to strengthen its commitment to social inclusion by doing more for people who are out of work for 12 months and longer,” said Clare Martin.

Funding for the Work Experience phase of employment services drops off once people are unemployed for over a year. In most other OECD countries the situation is reversed – assistance for long term unemployed people is ramped up.

Employment services providers receive just $500 to assist a long term jobseeker move back into work for the entire period they are unemployed. ACOSS has proposed this amount should be raised to atleast $750 per year of unemployment.

“There was a group of workers who lost jobs in the 1990s recession who never worked again. We don’t want to see this situation repeated. It is critical that Government act now to assist people who are unemployed for long periods.”

Two years after the 1991 recession, long term recipients of Newstart Allowance more than doubled in number from 180,000 to 430,000.

ACOSS has also proposed introducing a paid work experience program targeted at long term jobseekers. This would involve six months of paid work experience in a regular job in the community and public sectors paid at a training wage. The cost of 25,000 places would be about $200 million.

“If a person can participate in paid work experience in a regular job, it can help break the cycle of long term unemployment by keeping people in touch with the mainstream labour market, strengthening skills, confidence and work habits, and giving them access to employer references and contacts.”

“Government should also ensure there is support for people while they are unemployed. The current single Newstart payment of $227 per week is inadequate and should be increased.”

Media Contact: Clare Cameron, ACOSS – 0419 626 155