Job Seekers Lose Vital Centrelink Help

20:13' 26-09-2018
Job seekers who lose their unemployment benefits because of decisions made by private operators have no easy way to get the decisions reviewed.

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    Job seekers who lose their unemployment benefits because of decisions made by private operators have no easy way to get the decisions reviewed.

    Australia's 650,000 unemployed people must register with a Jobactive network provider, who is supposed to help them find work. As part of their obligations, they must apply for at least 20 jobs a month, attend regular meetings with their provider, or take part in an activity as part of the Work for the Dole scheme.

    Job seekers who fail to meet any of these conditions without a reasonable excuse may have their unemployment payments withheld or cancelled.

    In the past, job seekers could ask Centrelink to review such a decision, if they thought it was wrong. However, in July this year new legislation removed Centrelink’s power to overturn penalties. 

    Independent think tank Per Capita recently released a report indicating this is a cause for alarm, as there is “a significant rate of error” in the penalties imposed. In the 2015-2016 financial year, 2 million penalties were imposed, but Centrelink found nearly half of them were not justified.

    The report asserts that the Jobactive scheme, introduced in 2015, “is not offering genuine employment services” for job seekers, and “imposes requirements on them that do not improve their employment prospects but are linked to fees and ‘outcome payments’ for their jobactive provider”.

    The report also warned services often assist people who are relatively easy to place in work, while keeping clients who are more difficult to place simply to attract government funding.

    Most of the unemployed workers interviewed for the report complained that “their attendance at job agencies is a cost and a barrier to their search for work”.

    The Work for the Dole program, in particular, came under criticism earlier this year for work safety issues. Such criticisms date back to 2016. A Government-funded report in that year suggested 64% of Work for the Dole worksites had below average health and safety standards.

    Job seekers who are concerned about their rights should contact the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union (AUWU) at unemployedworkersunion.com. The AUWU national hotline (03) 8394 5266 is available Monday to Friday from 10am to 2 pm.

    Span Hanna

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