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Firm Yes, Fair No

The release of the Government’s Welfare to Work reforms today are a let down for Australia’s most disadvantaged jobseekers who will be pushed into the labour market with little or no meaningful support from the Government.

UnitingCare Australia National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds, said the Government had squandered a real opportunity to reform Australia’s welfare system and support those jobseekers still struggling to find work in an environment of record low unemployment.

“People want to work. What we’ve seen in the details of the Government’s reform package is the continuation of the flawed concept that job matching coupled with harsh compliance measures will magically result in disadvantaged Australians securing meaningful work.

“While the Government has softened the edges of the compliance regime announced in this year’s Budget, we still have a model that assumes jobseekers who fail to meet an activity requirement do so because they don’t want to work.

“This is not the experience of UnitingCare – we know that jobseekers want to work. When they don’t meet an activity requirement it’s for everyday reasons; there is no public transport available to get them to the interview; they didn’t get the notification because they don’t have a regular place to live; or they were at another interview. This new system, which will force more and more disadvantaged Australians to look for work, fails to offer the support and incentives they need.

“What we have is an incomplete picture. At one end of the spectrum we have a Government threatening jobseekers with compliance measures and at the other we’ve got some limited financial incentives for those who manage to fall into a job. What’s missing is a serious investment in job readiness, training, education and support for people as they are looking for work.”

UnitingCare Australia, with the wider welfare sector, has been calling on the Government to undertake a comprehensive reform of the welfare to work system, including measures to address the many barriers faced by disadvantaged jobseekers.

“UnitingCare agencies work with disadvantaged Australians everyday. We know from experience that it’s not easy for them to get and keep a job, because their problems go beyond just finding work. Issues like insecure housing or homelessness, poor access to public transport and child care and inadequate opportunities for training and re-skilling compound to make it extremely difficult for them to participate

“The Government must understand that in an economic climate where unemployment is at record lows, there are significant reasons why some are still unable to find and hold down meaningful employment. Until the Government accepts that a growing market economy does not hold all the answers for these people they will continue to struggle to participate in the labour market,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said.