Imminent payment reductions, the return of mutual obligations and the shift of more employment services online could create further problems for Tasmania’s unemployed, according to a union representing them.
From September 28, job seekers will once again be required to participate in job service provider appointments and other job seeker activities, with the threat of payment suspension for failure to comply.
The government also fast-tracked a plan to move more job seekers to an online platform to fulfill obligations from July, rather than the requirement to attend job service providers in-person. The changes were initially planned for 2022, and affect those within jobactive’s Stream A who are seen as the most employable, including the recently unemployed.
Job seekers have long complained about interactions with job service providers, including allegations that they hinder employment prospects with ineffective requirements. But the Australian Unemployed Workers Union is also concerned about the push to move more of these services online.
AUWU Tasmanian division secretary Marina Chapman said they were repeatedly told of interactions bordering on “harassment” from job service providers, but the online model could also be flawed.
“There’s also the continued problem that the model is one-size-fits-all – the same issue as before,” she said.
The National Employment Services Association – the peak body for job service providers – has raised concern that the shift to online could cause job seekers to be “parked in digital nowhere land where their needs aren’t being assessed” and that “there is no needs assessment occurring and no personalised support”.
NESA chief executive officer Sally Sinclair said anyone in the online model who believed they needed additional support could request to see a job service provider.
“The government should be making that more apparent, but until they do, people should feel confident that they can request a referral to a provider,” she said.
“Providers are also capable of supporting people virtually.”
The government is continuing its plan to reduce the rate of JobSeeker from September 28 from $1500 to $1200 per fortnight, leaving it about $100 per fortnight above the pre-COVID level, which was considered below the poverty line.
Ms Chapman said the increased rate of JobSeeker had enabled the unemployed to address some of their chronic financial problems, such as debt.
“People have been able to have a bit of relief for the past few months and do some of the things that they haven’t been able to do before,” she said.
“Personally, we’ve been able to get our car repaired, we were able to get vet treatments done for a pet – these are things that we would’ve put on our credit card debt in the past.
“It’s going to be nasty going back to not having that ability.”
Bass Liberal MHR Bridget Archer is one of the few government MPs consistently arguing for JobSeeker to not return to pre-COVID levels, when it was known as Newstart. She has written to the Prime Minister and Minister for Social Services on the issue.
Earlier this month Ms Archer said the long-term rate of JobSeeker was something that needed “further consultation” and that she favoured an approach that took a holistic view of the issues facing the unemployed in Northern Tasmania, and Australia more broadly.