Government and employers must do more to help people who are looking for paid work

In response to Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s speech, the Australian Council of Social Service said today that getting more people on income support into paid work will require proper investment in case management, skills and training, a paid work experience program, and incentives for employers to take people on. Those unable to find paid work straight away need more than the Newstart allowance of $34 a day to live on.

“We have welcomed the Government’s commitment to supporting more people who are looking for paid work and have urged them to take up the participation agenda as a priority. However, we need to invest in what will work at this time in light of the current and future economic conditions,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“The Federal Government must take up its share of responsibility to help those currently locked out of the jobs market to break back in, and financially support those who are doing it tough. Employers must also do their part.

“What’s required is not tougher talk or bigger sticks. People who are long-term unemployed are currently living on $34 a day, in poverty, already expected to look for 10 jobs a fortnight, and must accept job offers or face having an 8 week suspension of their payments.

“What’s needed at a time of near full employment is a serious evaluation of why it is that a group of people remain shut out of the paid workforce.

“The reasons include disabilities, age discrimination, and the mismatch between the skills of unemployed people (over half have less than year 12), and what employers need. These problems will not be resolved in a single Budget and the Government should consult widely and publically to set a blueprint for improving paid workforce participation.

“It will require greater investment in more case management so job services providers can properly assess the needs of long-term unemployed people. Currently providers are only funded to interview them once every two months and receive just $500 to get each long-term unemployed person job ready.

“In contrast we know the Government is spending around $4,400 to keep each person in the Northern Territory on income management with no proven beneficial results, and the intension is to extend that nationally.

“We believe this money would be better spend on intensive case management for people who have been out of paid work longer-term; the introduction of new programs including paid work experience for six months on a wage subsidy; and vocational training that’s linked to actual work experience.

“Employers also need to do their bit, in partnership with government, to provide more support and advice to employ people with disabilities, Indigenous people, mature aged people, and others who have been locked out of the jobs market.

“Governments’ have a dual responsibility for people out of paid work – to provide opportunities for those able to secure paid employment, and a decent income for those who can’t. We must not lose sight of the vital unpaid work that millions of people do – caring for children and others in the community – for whom adequate social security is an absolute necessity.

“This has been the Australian way since Curtin and Chifley introduced our social security safety net and services to help people into paid work in the 1940s. The present system of employment assistance and unemployment benefits is not up to the task and both are in need of renewal,” Dr Goldie said.

Media contact: Fernando de Freitas – 0419 626 155