The Australian Greens have provided additional comments to the inquiry into jobactive as while we are supportive of the Majority Report recommendations we believe that they do not go far enough in addressing the serious issues raised during the inquiry process.
The Greens are calling for Work for the Dole and the Targeted Compliance Framework (TCF) to be abolished.
“This inquiry has overwhelmingly demonstrated that the jobactive system is not fit for purpose and is failing unemployed workers", Senator Rachel Siewert said.
“Jobactive is undermined from the outset because the Government prioritises compliance over genuine assistance, providers are required to focus on enforcing compliance over assisting people into fulfilling employment pathways, particularly since the introduction of the Targeted Compliance Framework (TCF) last year.
“Through the inquiry process the Committee overwhelmingly heard that the focus is on punishing people for minor infractions, rather than looking at the individual and addressing the barriers they face.
“Since jobactive started in July 2015, 5.2 million penalties have been imposed on people looking for work. Half of those penalties were overturned by Centrelink. Under the TCF the capacity for Centrelink to overturn penalties no longer exists, raising concerns about how many of the penalties applied by providers are in fact in error.
“The high rate of penalties applied demonstrates the punitive nature of the Government’s approach to income support, where people are losing payments because they can’t make a job appointment or access Centrelink, often because they are living in poverty or face other barriers to employment.
“Poverty is itself a barrier to employment so “punishing” people by taking away their income ultimately defeats its own purpose and this inquiry has once again highlighted the urgent need to raise Newstart.
“It is widely accepted by the business and social services sector that poverty is a barrier to employment and that the current rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance is too low.
“Even with the most supportive employment service provider, if people cannot eat, pay their rent, afford transport or access online services they will be very limited in their capacity to engage with the system and find employment. We know that Newstart is too low – we do not need a review but an urgent raise.
“The jobactive model, the low rate of Newstart, mutual obligations requirements and the TCF are exacerbating existing mental health issues and have left people feeling there is little hope for the future and are causing distress and humiliation. We heard some heartbreaking evidence at the inquiry.
“The Government has taken an ideological approach to unemployment framing it as a personal moral failing of individuals rather than addressing the systemic issues such as poverty, intergenerational trauma and job market conditions.
“Until poverty is recognised as a barrier to employment by both major parties it will be difficult to fully resolve the issues that have been raised through the jobactive inquiry process.
“Changes to drug and alcohol rules and mutual obligation requirements brought in with the Welfare Reform legislation have made things worse for people with addiction accessing the social safety net and the Majority Report does not go far enough in their recommendations on this matter.
“I hope that on reading this report and the evidence presented at the inquiry the Government and ALP will commit to raising Newstart, abandoning the Targeted Compliance Framework and Work for the Dole.”
Additional coments from the Australian Greens can be found here.
Lucy Cowcher-Guthrie: 0418 401 180