An Australian Council of Social Services survey of almost 300 jobseekers reveals the job-search regime run is seen as unhelpful, lacking personalisation, and is characterised by suspensions of payment of benefits seen as unfair.
Acting ACOSS chief executive officer Edwina MacDonald said ACOSS welcomed moves by minister Tony Burke to review the way in which the job-search and benefits regimes interacted, but more needed to be done to fix a system that ACOSS believes is broken.
The survey found that 75% of people were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the Jobactive service and that only 10% reported they were satisfied.
Consultants were dumped on by the survey respondents with 59% stating they did not see the same consultant on a regular basis and 61% finding consultants were poorly trained.
There was also a concern raised by respondents about the lack of personalisation in job plans that job seekers must agree to in order to receive their job-seeker payment.
Almost 90% of respondents said it was important to have a choice about what goes into their job plan but 61% said that they did not choose the activities that appeared in their plans.
MacDonald said that the system appeared to place greater emphasis on activities that were not designed to help a job seeker find work.
‘’For too long now employment services have been dominated by endless rounds of inflexible ‘tick a box’ activities, such as having to apply for 20 jobs a month and participating in unpaid ‘make work’ schemes like Work for the Dole that don’t help people find regular employment,” MacDonald said.
“The pressures imposed on people to meet strict mutual obligation rules or risk losing income support are not helping them secure employment. In fact, by undermining people’s agency, confidence, and mental health, they have the opposite effect.”
MacDonald said people on benefits lived in fear of having payments suspended as a result of infringements such as failing to attend a meeting.
“In many cases they weren’t aware of the meeting. In the first three months of this year, an average of 200,000 payment suspensions a month were imposed – in many cases for failing to meet some sort of rigid requirement,” she said.
“While the new system is an improvement on jobactive, it retains many deeply problematic aspects of the old employment services system that need to go, such as computer-generated payment suspensions and inflexible regimes of compulsory activities like Work for the Dole.”