Employment services aren’t working. ACOSS calls for major reform. 

Thursday August 30, 2018

In a major submission to the government’s review of employment services, ACOSS is calling for fundamental reform of Australia’s employment services as the jobactive system is currently failing both employers and people looking for paid work due to inadequate investment and an over-emphasis on social security compliance.

“ACOSS has welcomed, and is contributing to, the government’s review of employment services, informed by feedback from service users and an Expert Advisory Panel,” says Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS.

‘’People searching for their first job, those who have been made redundant, are carrying an injury, or have experienced a major life upheaval like a relationship breakdown, are not getting the support they need from jobactive employment services and the appallingly low Newstart payment.”

“The jobactive program is more about enforcing Newstart requirements than helping people compete in a tough labour market where there is only one job available for every 8 people who are unemployed or underemployed. As a result, two thirds of people on Newstart are languishing on Newstart Allowance for 12 months or more.

“Newstart benefit requirements – such as the requirement to apply for 20 jobs per month – are rigidly enforced by jobactive providers even in areas where there are few jobs available. People have to repeatedly approach the same employers for work, while employers are losing trust in the system because they receive too many job applications.

‘Most people tell us that dealing with jobactive provokes anxiety, with a constant fear of being cut off from their social security support.

“People using jobactive and previous employment service programs are not getting the help they really need, such as career guidance, a referral to a job, meaningful training, or properly-paid work experience in a regular job. This helps explain the rise in people unemployed long-term over the last two decades.

“Australia spends well under half the OECD average on employment assistance,” says Peter Davidson, ACOSS Senior Adviser.

“Each person looking for paid work gets on average only $1,000-2,000 worth of job search assistance and training out of $1.3 billion spent annually.

“With average caseloads of 150 and more, a highly competitive provider market, and 40% of jobactive consultants leaving or losing their own jobs each year, it’s not possible for employment service providers to offer a quality service.

“Intense competition among providers also gets in the way of the cooperative work with other providers, employers and local community services, all of which is needed in regions with high unemployment.

Jobactive needs to be fundamentally changed. We need to design a new system which will get behind people locked out of paid employment, and create a real sense of hope and opportunity.

“Reducing unemployment is a shared responsibility, not just an individual one. The current model of employment services are leaving people behind.

“Newstart must also be increased. At less than $40 per day to cover all essentials, it’s near impossible to look for work if you’re struggling to keep a home and you’re hungry.”

Contact:  Australian Council of Social Service, 0419 626 155


ACOSS Proposals for reform of Australia’s employment services

  • A ‘Charter of Rights and Expectations’ for users of employment services including a right for people to choose and change their employment service provider, services and activity requirements that improve each person’s prospects of paid employment, accessible and culturally appropriate services; and a right to privacy of personal information.
  • The 20 jobs a month job search requirement should be reduced for individuals or regions where employment prospects are well below-average.
  • People who are close to securing employment would receive a mostly ‘self-help’ service, taking greater control over their job search using an online employment services platform.
    • In light of recent experience with ‘robodebt’, the online platform should not be used to automate decision-making on activity requirements and compliance.
    • The online platform should be backed up by employment advisors at Centrelink, to simplify the system and offer help for those who cannot manage or afford an online service.
  • People who are entering the paid workforce for the first time, returning after caring for a child or family member with a disability, or over 40 years old who need to reset their careers would also receive a career counselling and support service.
  • People unemployed long-term and those facing a high risk of long-term unemployment would receive a more intensive service from non-government employment service providers
    • More resources would be provided to this service to reduce caseloads.
    • Providers would have access to an investment fund, topped up each year for people unemployed long-term, to finance intensive services and activities to improve people’s skills and employment prospects, including properly-paid work experience with wage subsidies, vocational and other skills training, and mentoring with local employers.
    • The ineffective Work for the Dole program should be replaced by properly-paid work experience in regular employment settings.
  • A minority of people with complex needs (including many people with mental illness or who are homeless), would receive coordinated help from local agencies (including employment services, health and other community services) in a local partnerships service.
  • For the minority of regions with very high and entrenched unemployment, a community employment development service would be provided. This would be operated by consortia of employment services, employers, local government, and local community services (in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, a community controlled organisation)
  • There would be more certainty of funding to stabilise employment services and reduce staff turnover, but they would be required to achieve benchmark employment outcomes.
  • An independent statutory licensing body (similar to the new NDIS ‘quality and safeguards commission’) would be established to ensure that all providers meet minimum quality standards in their service to both unemployed people and employers; including treating people with respect, and the skills and qualifications of front-line staff.

Contact:  Australian Council of Social Service, 0419 626 155