Media Release: Workforce reforms welcome, but pause payment suspensions now

Philippa DuncanMedia release, Policy, Policy submissions

Economic Justice Australia has called for a pause on payment suspensions while changes to the compliance system recommended by the Workforce Australia committee are implemented.

“Today’s report has confirmed that outsourcing employment services to big business has been a failed experiment that has damaged lives and not got people into paid work,” EJA CEO Kate Allingham said.

“These corporations pocket $1.8bn a year in taxpayer funds, the Commonwealth’s largest single procurement outside defence, but a third are failing to meet their mutual obligation of supporting people into paid work.

“It’s time to create a model that actually supports people into employment.

“Under Workforce Australia, people are being punished with payment suspensions and forced to jump through ridiculous hoops such as completing useless courses and applying for jobs they know they will not get.

“Rebuilding the system will take years, so the government must move quickly to reduce the incidence of payment suspensions to a measure of last resort.

“While the interim steps recommended in this report to reduce payment suspensions are welcome, we want the government to go further and return the decision to suspend a payment to the public service sooner.

“The decision to cut off somebody’s payment is profound and should not rest with a private provider working in a shopping centre.

“We know the system is broken and we are heading into Christmas so payment suspensions must be paused immediately as we wait for reform.”

More broadly, EJA welcomes the Select Committee’s exciting and ambitious agenda for structural reform to the way employment services are provided.

“We welcome the recommendation to establish a re-imagined Commonwealth Employment Service, to provide the core coordination, planning, quality control and regulation and commissioning of services and Client Councils,” Ms Allingham said.

EJA also supports recommendations that provide access to services to refugees earlier and to restore sickness allowance.

While recommendations to help people who are long-term unemployed access the Disability Support Pension more easily are welcome, more is needed to ensure that people with disability and chronic illness who have little or no capacity for work are not stuck indefinitely in employment services on JobSeeker, and exposed to payment suspensions and penalties.

“Change needs to come quickly and we look forward to working with the government to implement the committee’s recommendations as soon as possible,” Ms Allingham said.