Contributed by Ben Wilson
The situation is about to get worse for job seekers. They already suffer through a Centrelink system that has its robo debt and is organised to punish those who come before it as if they were somehow doing wrong.
Now the minister responsible, Kelly O’Dwyer, has announced the intention to make is even worse, through the biggest overhaul in 20 years.
Although on paper there is what looks like liberating job seekers from the mandatory 20 applications per month, and allowing on line job searches, the real content is getting rid of jobs at Centrelink and replacing assistance with a digital platform.
The system has already gone some way down this road and the result has been bad for those who depend on Centelink to get by. The robo debt system, where individuals continue to be given debts unjustly, has been a standout example.
eBut it doesn’t stop here. Cutting back on face to face service, long waiting times on telephones, constant failures in the online system, have routinely put applicants and those seeking help on specific issues in a very hard place.
The digitalised system has been a means not only to cut back on staff. It has also been used to privatise services.
Consequently, money which would otherwise go to provide a service through skilled personnel, has been transferred to private providers, with a contractual incentive to punish those they come into contact with and knock them off benefits, rather than provide genuine help. The new changes will make this worse.
The Senate report just released, found that out of work Australians are “suffering” under the existing employment services program. It scathed the Jobactive program, which has brought in private providers to manage the job seekers, referring to it as “harsh and unreasonable.” the report called for an overhaul of the program.
Take away the dressing, the old system remains, and nothing is really going to change for the better.
Any substantial improvement must be incorporate the principles of genuine service to those in needs; remove the built in bias against the unemployed and others seeking assistance; provide sufficient support to sort out lives and make it easier to find work; accept that an income that is adequate to guarantee a reasonable standard of living is a human right that society and therefore government is bound to honour; and the provide sufficient qualified and experienced staff to ensure that all this is adhered to.
Unfortunately, we are a long way from this. This is a battle that still has to be fought and won.