Government must scrap harsh plan to deprive young people of income support for six months: ACOSS

The Australian Council of Social Service today urged the opposition parties and crossbenches to stand firm and vote against the harsh Government proposal to deprive young people of any income support for six months of each year.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said:

“We are deeply alarmed that the Government appears intent on pursuing this disastrous measure to strip away supports and payments for people struggling to find paid work, especially young people. How will depriving people under 30 of any income support for half the year help them get into jobs?

“It is disappointing to hear the Prime Minister describe the upcoming Budget as being “much less exhilarating” than last year’s, which seemingly fails to recognise just how distressing the 2014 Budget proposals have been for people on the lowest incomes. This proposal in particular would have a brutal impact on people’s lives if implemented.

“We were shocked to read this plan in the budget papers. Denying people of any financial means to survive altogether is unprecedented and is one of the most extreme measures left for the Federal Government to do away with.

“We urge the Opposition, the Greens and the all crossbenches to stand their ground and vote against this damaging, unfair proposal, which has no merit and no evidence base. It would only serve to drive young people further into poverty.

“We’re concerned that with all the focus on other flawed budget measures, such as cutting indexation for pensions, that young people will be forgotten.

“The move redefines youth to mean anyone up to 30 years of age, which implies that parents should be responsible for their children for a very long time. We know that this is simply not realistic in many cases.

“The result would be more young people going without food and shelter and turning to charities for help. The Government has conceded as much by increasing emergency relief funding in recognition of this bad policy. It makes no policy sense.

“With unemployment rising and youth unemployment over 20% in many parts of the country, what we need is a serious plan backed by both employers and the community sector to support and prepare young people who are desperately trying to break into the labour market.

“Instead of punishing young people for not being able to get jobs that simply aren’t there, the government needs to invest in effective programs, not cut them as it did the successful Youth Connections program.

“The Youth Connections program was closed down in December last year, leaving a major vacuum. There is now no national program to support young people at risk and facing significant barriers to participating in education, training or employment.

“The program had a 57% success rate in the number of participants re-engaging with education, training or employment. A further 18 per cent made significant progress in addressing their barriers to engagement. It assisted over 74,000 young people with support services from the period 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2013.

“The Government needs to abandon its obsession with the failed work for the dole policy which has a poor record of effectiveness. Just 19% of people forced into the demeaning program are able to get a job after three months.

“The most effective way to address youth and long term unemployment is to address skills and capabilities barriers to work. A first step is to increase the availability of places in wage subsidy programs (such as Wage Connect). This has proven to be very effective with 47% of people remaining in employment longer term. The scheme gives long term unemployed people valuable experience in a ‘real job’ and provides a subsidy roughly equivalent to the Newstart Allowance. The government needs to improve funding available for work experience training and service fees for long term unemployed people.

“ACOSS has worked closely with business groups and unions to develop this plan to more effectively linking employment services for disadvantaged job seekers with employer needs – where funding is redirected to targeted training and job seekers are supported once they gain employment. But unfortunately the government has ignored these solutions.

“Other countries are confronting the problem of growing youth unemployment with employment and training guarantees, and working with employers to encourage them to take on young employees and trainees. Yet the Australian Government is opting for a different course, removing income support and withdrawing career counselling programs.

“What we need to see is a comprehensive employment plan for our nation at a time of growing unemployment.

“We reject any move to reach a compromise deal on the six month waiting period for Newstart – young people should not be deprived of all means to keep their head above water for a single day.

“We urge Senators to not countenance any attempt by the government to reach a deal on this measure and dismiss it outright. It unnecessarily punishes young people who already face stringent requirements to look for work, and will only lead to greater hardship,” Dr Goldie said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155

Find out more:
ACOSS Employment Proposals for 2015 Federal Budget