Evidence heard at the senate inquiry into the jobactive program today has revealed a punitive system that is not getting people into long term employment and is causing distress and humiliation.
“I referred this issue to inquiry because I have heard of too many experiences of people not getting the help they need, living in poverty unable to find work, next to no support in a competitive job market and an extremely punitive compliance framework.
“What we have now is a “how can I punish you model” that prioritises compliance over genuine assistance, rather than a how can I help you model.
“At the very first hearing we have heard loud and clear that jobactive in its current form isn’t working. We have heard how the punitive one size fits all approach is failing people.
“I’m particularly concerned about the impact this program is having on single mothers forced into the system through welfare to work. Good Shepherd has researched micro- aggressions single mothers were facing in the jobactive system – but they actually found that many women are experiencing outright aggression from providers.
“Single mothers are frequently referred to jobactive even when they are clearly not in a position to participate – including when they have caring responsibilities, mental health issues and disability. They have to engage with jobactive when their children turn 6, and when they turn 8 they are shoved onto the lower Newstart payment, into poverty.
“To keep their payments, women are being forced into insecure jobs and a punitive, compliance driven approach that counteracts the aims of the program – supporting them into long term work.
“The program is so inflexible that people are leaving paid employment to attend their appointments, just so they don’t get their payments cut.
“What we have now is a blunt instrument, a one size fits all approach that doesn’t work and is causing harm. We need an approach that fits individual situations and barriers, particularly for young people and vulnerable jobseekers.
“5.2 million penalties have been imposed on people looking for work since jobactive started in July 2015. Half of those penalties are overturned by Centrelink. So people suffer through the stress and indignity of losing their income through no fault of their own and although they get it back they may have already gone into debt because people on Newstart live from payment to payment.
“Employment consultants aren’t required to have any formal qualifications and are themselves working in stressful environments. They have the power to apply sanctions, including cutting the payments of vulnerable people with little to no training. The turnover rate in this sector is at around 40% which points to systemic problems.
“The Brotherhood of St Laurence even made a decision not to provide jobactive after researching and finding it was not fit for purpose particularly for disadvantaged people.
“Jobactive is exacerbating existing mental health issues and can leave people feeling there is little hope for the future.
“Work for the dole actually costs people on low income money when they have work placements far from their home resulting in significant transport costs.
“Witnesses felt the jobactive program is based on the assumption that unemployed people don’t want to work and that there is enough work, which is of course not true. Jobactive can’t deal with the fact there are not enough jobs to go around.
“Providing good socials services relies on people being able to open up and be honest about what they are going through. It has to be a relationship of trust. But if you are checking up, monitoring and having to enforce compliance, jobseekers are unlikely to trust you.”
Lucy Cowcher-Guthrie: 0418 401 180