Compliance measures and implications
Participants raised several concerns with the compliance-driven approach to employment services. Routine appointments with the Jobactive provider (usually every fortnight) are considered a key part of a job seeker’s Mutual Obligation Requirement, and the first step to getting the jobseekers the assistance they need to find work. These appointments are intended to serve as motivation to keep jobseekers engaged with the assistance offered to them by the Jobactive provider until employment is found.
Many raised concerns that these appointments do not provide even the most basic level of support:
Every week I attend Jobactive provider for two hours, sitting in front of the computer for two hours for nothing, cannot access the internet to search for a job because of poor English language and not one of the employees in the centre helps out. [The] Jobactive provider advised me to search in Arabic shops in Liverpool for a job because they don’t need English they said. The owner of the Arabic shops requires English language, drivers licence and a lot of them prefer young people.
— A humanitarian arrival from Fairfield LGA
However, if people do not attend these appointments for even valid reasons, this can directly result into the suspension of Centrelink payments. This is common even though the Jobactive provider can decide not to suspend the jobseeker’s Centrelink payments and arrange alternative methods of engagement with the client that is a more ‘appropriate re-engagement strategy’ to secure the job seeker’s ongoing participation.
We’ve now got a systemic payment suspension problem because as soon as a client misses even one of their reporting, their payment is stopped. We are up to eighty, ninety clients who have their payments suspended for reasons that they do not understand for which the Jobactive will not help them.
— A settlement service provider, Perth
The suspension and reduction of payments has a severe impact on jobseekers. Often people are not aware that their payments are being delayed or suspended, nor do they understand why this has occurred. Cutting off payments for those who have very few financial resources creates significant problems with people being unable to purchase essentials such as food and pay for rent. Consequently, many other settlement service providers are required to provide people with emergency funds until their income support is restored. Often other service providers must intervene directly with Jobactive providers to explain the situation and assist people to rebook appointments for their payments to be restored.
Case studies from the Fairfield LGA evidence that people routinely attend the appointments, even if they do not provide any support in gaining employment. One settlement service provider from Perth describes the punitive nature of the appointment arrangements:
Refugee and humanitarian entrants and people from CALD backgrounds will always come out poorly when it’s purely [a] compliance framework. So, this is a typical story, every second day at our place… remember they’ve got two lots of reporting. Even now after three months when they’ve just started AMEP. Still got to do Jobactive; still got to apply for jobs. They’ll roll up to the center very distraught. What’s happened: got no money in the bank, don’t know why. We think we know why, did you do your reporting? What reporting? We don’t understand the reporting. What are we supposed to do? We phone up Jobactive; oh we sent them a letter. Well what’s good is that? They can’t even read English.