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Social security's great training robbery exposed

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Information I have recently obtained on public service training expenditures has produced some startling revelations about the Social Security approach to training.

* Over 1990-91 the Department of Social Security intends spending $73 million on training its own staff.

* This represents 13.9% of its payroll. Last financial year training expenditure as a proportion of its payroll actually reached 15%.

* Such amounts are way in excess of anything spent by other Commonwealth departments. For example, corresponding figures for 1989-90 for other departments include! 2.6% for the Department of Community Services and

Health; 2.3% for the Department of Primary Industries and Energy; 1.7% for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Even the Department of Administrative Services which has almost as many staff as Social Security and is similarly decentralised

spent only $11.1 million on staff training or 2.5% of the payroll during 1989-90.

* During 1989-90, Social Security sent 7,490 or 46% of its 16,270 full-time officers on trips away from home to undertake "training" for an average period of 4.3 days (almost a full working week).

* The total tax-free travel allowance paid to Departmental officers in respect of training related travel was $2,174,780.

Other information also obtained indicates that!

* The average duration of tenure of "permanent" Social Security ' shop-front' regional office staff is just 286 working days

or little over one calendar year, which is in part suggestive of why Social Security spends so much on training its staff - they leave shortly after and then even more training must be paid for in respect of new staff.

Other reasons for the great Social Security training extravaganza are that the Department treats training programs as little more than a fringe benefits racket and a government subsidised


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recreation break in a desperate attempt to reduce its appalling staff turnover problems.

Further, only minimal attempts are made at evaluating the effectiveness of staff training programs with many staff finding they attend courses to be equipped with skills not required by their jobs.

To halt the scandalous waste of millions of taxpayers dollars on "training", Social Security must urgently address the root causes of the problem: staff boredom and inadequate on-the-job training and subsequent high turnover rates. Such problems have left Social Security in a very poor position as its offices become increasingly overloaded with casualties from Labor's recession.

Sending staff on all expenses paid trips for a week under the guise of training is completely unsatisfactory. DSS regional officers must be provided with effective on-the-job training and interesting jobs rather than being left languishing as form

stamping functionaries. It is little wonder the 'shop-front' services provided by Social Security are so poor when its staff have little or no experience, "training" largely consists of a holiday away and then its effectiveness is hardly monitored.

For further information contact: Senator Richard Alston on [06] 277 3605 (w) or Michael Backman on [06] 277 3605 (w)

[06] 295 8906 (h).

4 March 1991.