‘Dole bludgers’ docked welfare payments

THE Federal Government has reignited the "dole bludger" stereotype amid debate about the adequacy of unemployment benefits, releasing figures showing a majority have payments suspended because they miss appointments.

The data released by Employment Minister Michaelia Cash shows nearly four in five of 744,884 Jobactive participants had payments suspended at least once in the 12 months to the end of June.

Payments can be suspended if people miss or turn up late to appointments with their service provider or behave badly during the meeting.

One in 12 jobseekers had racked up 10 or more suspensions in the year, and one person had payments suspended 52 times.

Senator Cash said the figures showed the penalty and demerit system was working as intended because people re-engaged after copping the punishment.

"The Coalition takes the mutual obligation of welfare recipients very seriously," she said in a statement.

Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash says the penalty and demerit system for jobseekers is working. Picture: Gary Ramage
Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash says the penalty and demerit system for jobseekers is working. Picture: Gary Ramage

"When participants have their payments suspended up to 52 times in less than a year, they are not living up to what the taxpayer expects who are giving their hard-earned money to the Government."

Jobactive is the Government's employment program and places requirements on jobseekers, such as attending regular meetings with providers and applying for 20 jobs a month in order to keep their welfare payments.

Most Newstart recipients are required to be on it.

The program has been criticised for wasting jobseekers' time, with a Senate committee in February slamming it as "not fit for purpose".

In many cases, participants were missing paid employment to attend appointments with their Jobactive provider, the committee said.

And a March survey of people looking for work found two-thirds said Jobactive hadn't been helpful in their situation.

 

Jobseekers on the Jobactive program are expected to apply for 20 jobs a month in order to keep their welfare payments. Picture: Istock
Jobseekers on the Jobactive program are expected to apply for 20 jobs a month in order to keep their welfare payments. Picture: Istock

 

A new Liberal senator who led mining magnate Andrew Forrest's indigenous jobs program called for reforms to the program in his first speech on Tuesday, worrying it involves too much unnecessary training.

"Failure in this policy area is not an option," Matt O'Sullivan told parliament.

"The training for training's sake issue not only wastes an enormous amount of taxpayers' dollars but it completely depletes the trainee of any sense of pride and aspiration," he said.

An overhaul of the program that would allow people to search online for jobs is being trialled in Adelaide and the NSW mid north coast.

The release of figures around Jobactive comes as momentum is gathering in the push to increase the $277-a-week Newstart payment.

Several Coalition backbenchers, including former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, have added their voices to those from Labor, the Greens, business and welfare lobby groups, seniors, doctors, the Reserve Bank and the Country Women's Association saying the payment is inadequate.


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