Australia’s mutual obligation system for welfare risks “subjecting disadvantaged participants to unreasonably onerous and punitive conditions”, the Commonwealth Ombudsman has warned. Source: The Guardian.
The Ombudsman made the submission to a Senate inquiry, which has already recommended a major overhaul of the controversial ParentsNext program, and revealed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants were fined at almost double their rate of participation.
Indigenous participants “incurred a higher rate (33 per cent) of payment suspensions than their proportion of the ParentsNext caseload (18 per cent)”, according to the employment department’s submission.
ParentsNext is a $110m a year pre-employment program that requires some people on parenting payments with children as young as nine months to attend compulsory activities such as career guidance, vocational education, playgroups or storytime, or risk payment suspension.
The Senate select committee inquiry is examining ParentsNext as well as the entire Workforce Australia employment services model, which imposes obligations on welfare recipients who risk payment suspension for non-compliance.
In its submission, the Commonwealth ombudsman warned it was “concerned the incentive structure for providers and their discretion concerning participants’ job plans may not always produce fair outcomes for participants”.
In separate submissions the Australian Council of Social Services and Jobs Australia, the largest network of not-for-profit job services providers, called for mutual obligation to be overhauled to ensure activities are beneficial, and the “punitive dynamic is removed from the employment service relationship”.
Australia’s welfare system puts disadvantaged at risk, inquiry told (By Paul Karp, The Guardian)