Kicked below the poverty line

Big changes to Centrelink mutual obligations

Life for the 792,000 people on Centrelink payments and those on JobSeeker living on $48 per day – which is below the poverty line – is about to get much more difficult, as one punitive system is replaced by another.

On 4 July, Jobactive —the Australian government’s main unemployment services program — will be replaced by a new service called Workforce Australia, immediately impacting around 792,000 people. Centrelink clients have not been told of the changes.

The aim of Jobactive was to help people on Centrelink payments apply for jobs or undertake further training, but it was criticised as”punitive” by welfare groups. It was and is largely a failure due to the ridiculous notion that real unemployment was around 4 per cent.

Around 169,000 “job-ready” participants will be moved to an online portal to manage their job searches – over seen by computer programs – while some 592,000 others will be referred to a new face-to-face job provider, thereby earning useless training providers millions of dollars more in taxpayer monies. Centrelink is also about to slash its casual workforce by 30 per cent.

People required to complete mutual obligations — tasks and activities aimed at helping people find a job — will also transition to what’s being called the Points Based Activation System (PBAS).

They’ll need to accumulate 100 points a month —earned through activities such as completing job applications or training courses — to continue receiving their payments.

Points targets may be reduced based on “personal circumstances” and extra points can be carried over into the next month, according to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s (DESE) website.

The PBAS replaces the current system where jobseekers are required to submit 20 job applications a month, thereby bombing employers with resumes. This is one reason why employers wrongly believe there is a skills shortage.

Under the PBAS, a person doing the work for the dole program full-time would only get 20 points a week, meaning they’d need to complete other activities on top of that to keep their payments.

Work for the dole will also be compulsory for people after six months in the face-to-face stream, rather than the current 12, though people will only need to do it for two months instead of six.

Attending a job interview or starting a job will be worth 20 points under the PBAS, and completing an application, five points.

Kristin O’Connell, a spokesperson from the Antipoverty Centre, said the changes have not been explained in enough detail, causing fear and confusion among the hundreds of thousands of people.

“We’re going to have people trying to figure out how to navigate a new system at the same time as worrying about losing their payment at a time when costs are out of control,” she said.

Put your best foot forward

Malcolm builds expert resumes, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles, which unleash an unbeatable business case to promote you as a ‘must have’ asset to an employer.