BUDGET 2016: Work For The Dole Eased, But Not In Black Communities

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BUDGET 2016: The Coalition has signalled it will move further away from Work for the Dole, but has expanded welfare management and introduce an internship-heavy job program for under-25s. Max Chalmers reports.

Australians out of work will be given a reprieve from Work for the Dole thanks to changes put forward in the 2016 budget, while those in the Indigenous-dominated Community Development Scheme have not seen any changes to their requirements.

The Coalition’s third budget has flagged another move away from the emphasis on Work from the Dole, once put forward as a centrepiece of its strategy for those struggling to find work.

The government has also outlined a new program for under-25s who are out of the job, which will offer up to 30,000 internships per annum as part of a three stage process.

In a measure expected to save close to half a billion dollars over the forward estimates, people in the jobactive system – the new program for those on benefits ushered in by the Coalition – will now only have to engage in Work for the Dole after 12 months.

Those in Stream A – the ‘most ready’ job seekers assessed as having no barrier preventing them accepting employment – had previously been pushed into the program after just six months.

The government has opted not to make any changes to the Community Development Program (CDP), the jobactive equivalent for regional areas, which has a client base close to 80 per cent Indigenous.

Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet officials said there were a range of activities those on the CDP could be placed into in order to fulfil the ‘mutual obligations’ demanded of those receiving welfare. Unlike jobactive, this means they could be placed into a Work for the Dole program immediately, though it is not compulsory that they are.

The government has previously been forced to defend the CDP on the basis it is discriminatory, putting more onerous conditions on clients than those on jobactive. Unlike jobactive, which is run out of the Department of Employment, the CDP is the responsibility of the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

In comments made during his lock-up address to journalists, Treasurer Scott Morrison made an oblique reference to the change, saying the government was funding new jobs transition initiatives by taking money away from areas that had been ineffective, explicitly mentioning Work for the Dole.

The savings will help fund $751 million in spending on a new program called Youth Jobs PaTH. The program proposes three steps for moving under 25s into work.

  • People are place in ‘basic skills’ training for up to six week
  • 30,000 12-week internships will be offered. Businesses will be given $1,000 upfront to induce them to place an intern, while those who sign up will be given an extra $200 per fortnight
  • Funds will be offered to businesses who place under 25s who have been out of work for more than six months, up to $10,000 is the job seeker is classified has having barriers to employment

Elsewhere, the government has expanded welfare management, with an undisclosed amount put aside for a third cashless debit card trial, already being run in the South Australian town of Ceduna, and Kununurra/Wyndham in Western Australia. The card bars a welfare recipient from withdrawing anything more than 20 per cent of their payments in cash, forcing them to use a special card that can not purchase alcohol or gambling products. Special payment systems must be installed in any store before the card can be used, limiting the places a person can shop.

Intriguingly, the government also appears to have extended income management to rental payments, with the introduction of a “Compulsory Rent Deduction Scheme”.

“Under the Scheme, occupants of public and some community housing who receive income support payments or Family Tax Benefit will have their rent and related tenancy costs deducted from their payments and automatically transferred to the relevant public and state approved community housing providers,” Budget Paper Two says.

The Paper says the scheme will aim to prevent people accruing rental debt, and make rental income streams more reliable for housing providers.

Centrelink currently runs a similar service but it is voluntary.

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Max Chalmers

Max Chalmers is a former New Matilda journalist and editorial staff member. His main areas of interest are asylum seekers, higher education and politics.

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