The Abbott Government has announced the massive expansion of the Work for the Dole program. Under new arrangements the program will force unemployed Australians to work up to 25 hours per week to continue receiving social security. In addition, the government will require job seekers to apply for 40 jobs per month.
I work in the community services sector and I’ve spent several years working as an employment consultant with Job Services Australia. I specialised in working with very long term unemployed, highly disadvantaged and Aboriginal job seekers. I was one of the highest recruiters in our agency, exceeding targets every month. I was good at anchoring job seekers in work, but more importantly, I was good at keeping them there. This is the bigger challenge when working with clients with multiple, complex needs.
I was different to other consultants, I came from a welfare background, I have an Honours degree in Social Science majoring in counselling, mediation, social welfare and social policy, so I approached job seekers holistically. A mature age client who is homeless is not in a position to find work and keep it. A mother with three children living with domestic violence is not in a position to find work and keep it. An Aboriginal young person with the literacy and numeracy skills of a 9 year old child is not in a position to find work and keep it. The middle aged man who will not look me in the eye because he has no teeth and has a two year wait on the list before he can get some is not in a position to find work and keep it.
Achieving sustainable employment outcomes means identifying and addressing the common and complex issues with which job seekers present. I took this approach and it worked, although I often made referrals to support agencies secretly as my employer frowned upon such ‘diversionary activities’. Our job was not welfare, it was employment. I’m sorry, but the two are interdependent and cannot be separated. FACT.
Work for the Dole is a demoralising program designed to ‘activate’ people in a way that is not beneficial to the job seeker but keeps the general populace happy knowing “they’re not getting something for nothing”. If the government sees fit to want to ‘activate’ job seekers it should be through meaningful training, work readiness programs and targeted work experience. Activities that add to their employability. Research has shown that far from improving employment outcomes, Work for the Dole prolongs the amount of time someone spends on welfare payments.
Further to this, the government proposes to have job seekers apply for 40 jobs per month in order to receive income support. What 40 jobs would that be? Regional areas do not support this kind of employment opportunity, this is particularly problematic for young people, older Australians and people with disability.
If the 740,000 unemployed Australians, meet their job application target while undertaking Work for the Dole (if they are under 50), that will see more than 1,000,000 applications made to Australian businesses EVERY DAY. I was under the impression the Coalition had an interest in cutting red tape and the government burdens applied to small business? Apparently not.
Placing vulnerable people on a meaningless and punishing merry-go-round of activity will not reduce unemployment, it will exacerbate the very vulnerabilities that prevent people obtaining employment in the first place. Once again, this government rides rough-shod over humanity. The unemployed are the ‘undeserving poor’, constructed as a burden to the government and all Australians. May you never find yourself vulnerable and subject to the vagaries of the employment market, because your lot will be made harder – they’re planning for it.