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Unemployed paying the cost of job network failure with suspended payments.

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Senator John Cherry Australian Democrats Employment Spokesperson

September 9, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/647

Unemployed paying the cost of Job Network failure with suspended payments The Government has started suspending the payments of up to 900,000 unemployed people who have been caught up in the botched transfer of Job Network contracts, even though the Government has acknowledged “teething problems” with the new technology, according to the Australian Democrats.

Democrats’ Employment spokesperson Senator John Cherry said the Minister for Family and Community Services Senator Vanstone, had confirmed in Senate Question Time today that suspensions of payment had now commenced, even though Centrelink rejected most Job Network recommendations for social security breaches.

“The Minister has at least acknowledged that there have been ‘teething problems with the new technology’ and that it will be Centrelink not the Job Network that will decide breaching decisions,” Senator Cherry said.

“This approach stands in stark contrast with the statement by the Employment Services Minister today that the 900,000 missed appointments were ‘mostly without valid reasons’.

“In fact, detailed analysis of Centrelink figures by the Centre for Applied Social Research showed that 72.4% of breaches recommended by Job Network providers are rejected by Centrelink because of procedural flaws.

“In the seven months to February 2003, 160,800 breach recommendations from Job Network were rejected by Centrelink, including:

• 37,300 for not considering reasonable and valid excuses

• 13,600 because the job seeker was incapacitated

• 14,000 because the job seeker had moved or the letter was sent to the wrong address

• 4,700 because duplicate reports had been submitted

• 3,500 because of inappropriate referrals

• 2,300 because the wrong letter was sent

• 2,200 because the job seekers didn’t understand the request

• 2,400 because they were at a job interview at the time

• 17,800 because the job seeker was working at the time of the interview.

“Minister Brough has comprehensively mishandled the transfer of referrals under the Job Network’s third contract, and the unemployed should not be forced to pay the price.

“The Government has now confirmed that tens of thousands of people have now had their payments suspended. But no job seeker should have their payments cut or terminated as a breach because of the incompetence of the Department of Employment and Job Network providers.

“No job seeker should have their benefits cut until the Government has done all it can to fix the referral process and the systemic flaws evident within the Job Network system,” Senator Cherry concluded. Media contact Pam Hose: 0408 752 750