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Monday, 18 November 2002
Page: 6671


Senator Crossin asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, upon notice, on 17 October 2002:

(1) How many people are receiving intensive assistance via Job Network in the federal electorate of Solomon.

(2) How many unemployed people in Solomon have received intensive assistance since the introduction of Job Network on 1 May 1998.

(3) (a) What is the total sum of funding support received by Job Network members in Solomon for intensive assistance; and (b) can a breakdown of this figure for each of the Job Network members be provided.

(4) What have the employment outcomes been for people on intensive assistance in Solomon since 1998.

(5) How many of these employment outcomes have resulted in: (a) full-time work; (b) part-time work; (c) casual work; (d) seasonal work; and (e) contract work.

(6) How many people receiving intensive assistance in Solomon have entered into traineeships or apprenticeships.

(7) What processes are in place to ensure that Job Network members are accountable for the Commonwealth funds they receive.

(8) Have Job Network members refused to reveal any details of the funds they receive from the Commonwealth for placing job seekers into employment; if so, how can job seekers be assured that Job Network members are providing the full range of services that they are entitled to receive.


Senator Alston (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) In the Electoral Division of Solomon there were 1,562 job seekers receiving Intensive Assistance at 18 October 2002.

(2) Between 1 May 1998 and 18 October 2002 a total of 7,477 job seekers had participated in Intensive Assistance.

(3) Electorate boundaries in the Northern Territory changed for the 2001 Federal election. Expenditure for the Electoral Division of Solomon is only available from 2001/2002 onwards. Between 1 July 2001 and 30 September 2002 fees totalling $4,645,000 had been paid to Job Network members providing Intensive Assistance in the Electoral Division of Solomon.

The area covered by Solomon was previously a part of the Electoral Division of Northern Territory. Between 1 May 1998 and 30 June 2001 fees totalling $18,090,000 had been paid to Job Network members providing Intensive Assistance in the Electoral Division of Northern Territory.

Under contractual arrangements the value of payments to individual Job Network members are subject to an exemption from publication on the grounds of commercial in confidence.

(4) Post Programme Monitoring data show that of those Intensive Assistance participants in the Electoral Division of Solomon leaving assistance between the start of Job Network in May 1998 and the end of March 2002, around 28.6 percent were in employment 3 months later.

(5) Post Programme Monitoring data show that 13.4 percent of former Intensive Assistance participants in the Electoral Division of Solomon are in full-time work with an additional 15.2 percent in part-time work. Of these former Intensive Assistance participants: 22 percent were in permanent employment; 67 percent were in temporary, seasonal or casual employment; and 11 percent were self-employed.

(6) There are 53 people who participated in Intensive Assistance in Solomon that have entered into a Traineeship or Apprenticeship.

(7) A range of governance procedures were introduced with the establishment of Job Network. These included the Code of Conduct and compliance and performance monitoring arrangements.

The Code of Conduct is the central feature of consumer protection under Job Network. The aim of the Code is to produce the best outcomes for job seekers and employers by developing a high-quality, continuously improving service that engenders ethical behaviour. All Job Network members (JNMs) are required to comply with the Code, which forms part of their contract with the Commonwealth. The Code establishes minimum standards of service that all JNMs must provide to job seekers and employers. It requires JNMs to conduct all aspects of their business with integrity and in accordance with high ethical standards and requires that they provide a free and accessible complaints resolution process for job seekers and employers.

In addition, if a job seeker is not satisfied with the outcome of a complaint raised with their JNM or for some reason feels he or she cannot raise the matter with the JNM the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations offers a free and accessible complaints handling process. Job seekers can call the 1800 number and a customer service officer will assist them to resolve their complaint.

The complaints handling process enables the Department to monitor JNMs' compliance with the Code and work with JNMs to resolve problems and improve service quality.

The Department has a network of contract managers for Job Network, located in six District and seven State Offices, oversighted by National Office. Contract managers monitor JNMs' contract compliance and play an important role in performance management through scheduled and ad hoc visits, performance reviews, on going desk monitoring and Quality Audits.

Quality Audits are triggered when the Department receives significant complaints about a JNM. These audits enable a full analysis of the JNM's service practices and can involve activities such as job seeker satisfaction surveys, site visits, file assessments and complaints analysis.

During 2001, the Department put in place mechanisms to strengthen the integrity of Job Network and ensure accountability.

An Integrity Strategy was introduced to monitor emerging business practices within Job Network which may compromise Commonwealth funds. The Integrity Strategy aims to ensure that the interests of the job seekers are best served and that decisions made by Job Network members put the needs of employers and job seekers before their own financial gain or any other benefit.

The Integrity Committee (now Ethics Subcommittee) and the Employment Risk Management Subcommittee were established within the Department as part of this Strategy as forums to improve the management structure for effective dealing with emerging risk and ambiguous business practices within Job Network.

The Code of Conduct has been strengthened to maintain the reputation and integrity of practices by JNMs.

Policy revisions were introduced to ensure Job Matching and Intensive Assistance employment outcomes are not used unethically by JNMs simply to maximise their fees.

The Department has developed a National Contract Management Framework to monitor business practices and their consequent management more systematically and effectively. For example, this framework includes a risk based plan of contacts with JNMs including targeted monitoring visits for compliance checking.

The Department undertakes an investigation and a compliance programme with a local and national presence that provides an independent assurance review function. The main roles include the development and implementation of a national compliance monitoring programme, the investigation of possible fraudulent activity and the recovery of inappropriate payments.

(8) As indicated in (3) above, under current contractual arrangements, the value of payments to individual Job Network members are subject to an exemption from publication on the grounds of commercial in confidence.

Job seekers are assured of receiving the full range of services that they may expect, through the operation of the mechanisms outlined in (7) above, including the Job Network Code of Conduct and complaints resolution processes.