ACOSS urges root and branch employment services overhaul

ACOSS welcomes the House of Representatives Select Committee recommendations released today which, if implemented, would transform employment services for the better.

ACOSS Acting CEO Edwina MacDonald said: ”We urge the Federal Government to commit to the reforms recommended by this inquiry that would shift it from a system that punishes people towards one that opens up real employment opportunities.

“The fact that 600,000 people have been stuck on unemployment payments – many of them people with disability or older workers struggling to get a foothold in the labour market – is a sign of failure in the employment services system. We must do better.

“The most urgent reform recommended by the Committee is to end automated payment suspensions and ensure people have access to a human decision maker before payments are affected. In the three months to September, over 280,000 people were threatened – by computer – with the loss of their income support, often for minor infractions such as missing an appointment with an employment service provider that they didn’t know about.

“Cutting off someone’s income should never be a first resort and people should be given the chance to explain their situation before their payments are impacted. The government must act to stop automated payment suspensions now, before it becomes the next Robodebt tragedy. Until a fair alternative to the present system of unjust and automated suspensions is in place, we continue to urge for a pause in payment suspensions.

“The Committee proposes overdue, transformational reform to the 30 year-old employment services system in which private providers compete for the ‘business’ of helping people secure employment. This competitive model has not worked.

“ACOSS welcomes the proposed independent quality assurance body to manage complaints and set standards for employment services, including the qualifications of frontline employment services staff, and the creation of standing advisory bodies where people directly affected are directly represented.

“The proposed national wage subsidy and work experience schemes would offer people unemployed long-term the opportunity for experience in a regular, properly paid job. ACOSS advocates an offer of at least annual access to a wage subsidy, quality training, a job offer or health and social supports tailored to individual need. This should replace punitive and ineffective programs like Work for the Dole, which must be abolished.

“The proposed regional hubs and service gateways would join up local employment, community and training services, and connect them with employers.

“We will examine further the Committee’s recommendations over the coming weeks and commit to working with the government to implement much needed reforms.

“It is also vital to raise the rate of income support to at least $78 a day, so that people can afford the essentials of life while searching for employment.”

/Public Release. View in full here.