The inquiry into future employment services
On 22 January 2018, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, appointed an Expert Advisory Panel (‘the Panel’) to help shape the design of future employment services. The Department of Jobs and Small Business has since released a discussion paper and called for submissions from interested parties regarding the future employment services model. The submission period closed on 3 August 2018 and the Panel will report to Government in October 2018 outlining a proposal for reform.
Employment has long been a focus of our work, including in our reports What Works (2010) and most recently in Not Working: The experiences of refugees and migrants with Jobactive (in collaboration with Fairfield Multicultural Interagency).
People who are forcibly displaced face many challenges that affect their ability to work. At a minimum, their careers are disrupted and they face the challenge of accessing an unfamiliar labour market in a foreign country. Many of them face other challenges, such as physical and mental health issues arising from their persecution. These compound other disadvantages faced by people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, such as the need to learn English, employment discrimination, lack of Australian work experience or networks, and difficulty in having overseas qualifications recognised.
Both of our reports emphasise the failure of mainstream employment services to provide effective assistance to refugees and migrants. We therefore strongly endorse the views expressed in the Discussion Paper about the inadequacies of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, and the need for greater flexibility and tailoring of employment services. We also welcome the Discussion Paper’s emphasis on the need to consider the needs of particular groups and references to the need for cultural sensitivity, although the Discussion Paper often fails to mention the particular needs of refugees and migrants in those contexts. We would strongly support the reintroduction of specialist services for refugees and migrants in the Commonwealth employment program.
We also welcome the recognition within the Discussion Paper of our concerns about an inflexible and counterproductive focus within Jobactive on compliance requirements, and the lack of capacity within Jobactive to provide adequate employment assistance given the caseloads involved.
This submission begins with the reason refugees are likely to need more intensive employment assistance and the assistance of specialist providers. We then address issues relating to the compliance requirements and the assessment process, and risks posed by the increased use of technology indicated in the Discussion Paper.