Make jobs and tackling poverty top priorities of next parliament: Leaders told

The Australian Council of Social Service today called on the major political parties to make employment and lifting people out of poverty the top priorities for the next Parliament, following the positive announcements on jobs and training of the past week.

“Whoever wins Government must act to reduce long term unemployment and the growing wave of people being left behind, having to make do on below poverty line social security payments,” said ACOSS President, Simon Schrapel.

“The number of people on the unemployment payment (Newstart Allowance) for over 12 months has risen from 300,000 to 500,000 since the Global Financial Crisis. With Treasury expecting unemployment to rise by another 80,000 next year, it is imperative that we take action.

“Far too many unemployed people are being locked out of the labour market due to low skills, lack of recent work experience, age discrimination, disabilities and health problems. They have to survive on the $35 a day Newstart payment, which has not increased in real terms since 1994.

“ACOSS welcomes Labor’s proposed Jobs and Training Guarantee for unemployed people, announced today. People unemployed long term need guaranteed help that leads to a job, instead of two week training courses and work for the dole schemes that lead nowhere. Training should be linked to jobs and the needs and aspirations of unemployed people.

“The challenge will be to make the guarantee work. ACOSS calls for more resources to job services providers and training organisations, especially to help people unemployed for over 12 months, which is the biggest gap in the system.

“Job Services Australia providers generally receive funding to interview a long term unemployed person every 2 months plus $500 to invest in training. The next Government should avoid sacrificing help for those unemployed long term in order to boost funding for people with less severe disadvantages.

“ACOSS has also welcomed the recent Coalition announcement that it would provide $3,250 to Tasmanian businesses that hire long term unemployed jobseekers. We urge both major parties to double the number of wage subsidy places for long term employed people nationally beyond the 10,000 currently available.

“Providing employers with incentives to take people on long term unemployed people gives them access to valuable on-the-job training while giving people a shot at jobs that they are likely to keep.

“ACOSS wants to see the elected Australian Government come together with business, union and community groups to develop a compact about growing job opportunities and making our employment services and training systems more effective, particularly for people who are long term unemployed.

“Alongside this, in the first 100 days of the next government, we must develop a clear anti-poverty strategy for our nation. With 2.2 million people, including nearly 600,000 children currently living in poverty, it’s time we set a target – a national development goal – to reduce poverty in our country. We welcome the Australian Greens’ support for a National Anti-Poverty Strategy and targets.

“The first steps should be to raise the Newstart payment for single people by $50 a week and increase family payments for the poorest families. This would restore the incomes of the poorest of the 100,000 sole parents whose payments were cut in last year’s regrettable Budget decision.

“ACOSS looks forward to working closely with whoever wins Saturday’s Federal Election to address the key challenges facing our nation,” Mr Schrapel said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155