Radical redesign coupled with increase in low payments needed for broken employment services

Peak community welfare organisations today backed a plan by Jobs Australia to design and model an improved employment services system, adding that a redesign of the broken system needs to be coupled with a $50 increase in single Allowance payments which have fallen well below the poverty line. 

The Australian Council of Social Service and National Welfare Rights Network are supporting the move by the peak employment services body, Jobs Australia, to invest significant funds to redesign a more workable model for a job-matching system that is more effective in getting unemployed people trained and ready to take up jobs.

“We know there is widespread concern that the current system is failing many unemployed people, especially younger people, migrant Australians, older workers, those with disabilities, and people who are experiencing homelessness. We need to work closer with business to better skill and match people into jobs, and adapt the system to the structural changes taking place in the Australian economy,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“Improved employment services, in addition to a $50 increase for all single unemployed people on the Newstart Allowance, are essential elements of the policy response that will assist Australian’s back into the workforce. There has not been a real increase in the Newstart Allowance for almost two decades.

“Minister Shorten got it right when he said that living on just $35 a day was ‘an incredibly difficult ask’. The Newstart Allowance payment structure does not work well for a highly casualised labour market and for people with disabilities and single parents.

“The current Job Services Australia system doesn’t encourage investment in people unemployed long term, who have only a 50 per cent chance of finding work without further assistance. For instance, job providers only receive between $500 and $1,100 to invest in training and work experience for this group,” Dr Goldie said.

Maree O’Halloran, President of the National Welfare Rights Network said, “Improved outcomes for disadvantaged job seekers requires a greater investment in intensive case management, basic skills training and work experience. It also requires better integration between support programs and health, housing and social services generally.

“Access to effective and responsive employment assistance is critical for individuals well-being and the overall prosperity of the nation. We need a better system which engages and motivates job seekers to take up opportunities for education and training, to build skills and overcome disadvantage,” Ms O’Halloran said.

“The system is too unresponsive to the needs and aspirations of job seekers and employers, too bogged down in administrative rules. Unemployed people get two days to choose a provider, and this time-frame is not conducive to informed or effective choices. The system should be designed to serve its consumers, unemployed and employers, not simply to follow rules.

“High levels of staff turnover by employment consultants, limited professional development, issues around job satisfaction and unmanageable caseloads all impact on the quality of assistance to help unemployed people into employment,” Ms O’Halloran said.

Both ACOSS and National Welfare Rights Network have long called for greater investment in employment assistance for people unemployed long-term, and expansion of wage subsidy schemes and place-based programs for people who are most disadvantaged in the labour market, and the earmarking of training places.

Dr Cassandra Goldie said, “Ultimately we all need to work together to build a system that truly works and is effective in including people currently locked out of the jobs market. A system that doesn’t drive people into poverty through unacceptably low income support payments as they are preparing to re-enter the workforce. One that is much simpler to understand and navigate, that isn’t hamstrung by so much burdensome red-tape, and that successfully assists some of the most disadvantaged people in our community into paid work.”

Media Contacts:
Fernando de Freitas (ACOSS) – 0419 626 155
Gerard Thomas (NWRN) – 0425 296 882

Resources for journalists
Jobs Australia’s 2015 Project
ACOSS Factsheet: Employment Participation
Towards more efficient and responsive employment services: ACOSS submission to APESAA
$35 a day is not enough! campaign