TURNBULL WELFARE CHANGES HAMMER COMMUNITY GROUPS

07 Sep 2017


In a bizarre move, the Turnbull Government has targeted volunteer dependent community groups as part of its social security crackdown.
 
Labor will oppose Turnbull Government plans to rob community groups of vital volunteering support by cutting the time people aged 55 to 59 can help those groups and still receive Newstart payments.
 
These community groups provide a huge level of help to neighbourhoods across the country - they deserve our support, not a callous cut in help.
 
Many of these volunteers gain useful job skills in these community groups - which also provide a platform to keep being productive in the face of ageism and other discrimination that locks them out of the workforce.
 
The government knows this ageism is a harsh fact of life.  The average person aged 55 to 59 years of age spends 73 weeks looking for work, compared to an average between 40 and 50 weeks for other job seekers.
 
This is why the Government hastily put together a Career Transition Assistance Program to help older jobless Australians  – to be trialled for two years in only five locations before it actually starts in 2020.
 
The government will punish these older jobseekers for years before giving them any help in a tough job market.
 
The Turnbull Government has also proposed changes to the compliance framework for job seekers, which will double the amount of penalties levelled at jobseekers.

It will also strip away the ability of employment agencies and departmental staff to apply discretion and waivers if there is a concern the penalties cannot be applied fairly in tough individual cases.
 
Under the current compliance framework 72,000 penalties were applied in one year. According to the government’s modelling that number would rise to 147,000.
 
While Labor has a record of championing activation measures to get people working, it’s important employment agencies and department staff have the ability to take into account the circumstances of vulnerable job seekers.
 
Further, overseas experience has seen little evidence to demonstrate that the jobless find jobs quicker through the imposition of harsh compliance measures as proposed by the Turnbull Government.
 
The Australian Council of Social Services gave evidence at the Senate Inquiry for this legislation that worse job search and employment outcomes:
 
“In the UK tough sanctions were found to increase risk of participants becoming homeless and had negative outcomes for mental and physical health, self-esteem, relationships and engagement with the labour market.”
Australian Council of Social Services, submission to Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee inquiry, p. 15.
 
Instead of playing political games, the Turnbull Government should provide the evidence to show that its inflexible, punitive system will lead to better outcomes for Australian job seekers.



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