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Job Network: the pretence of assistance.

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MEDIA RELEASE Anthony Albanese MP Shadow Minister for Employment Services & Training Federal Member for Grayndler

Thursday, 19 September 2002

For further information/comment: Anthony Albanese 02 6277 4031 Annie O’Rourke 0438 279 368

JOB NETWORK: THE PRETENCE OF ASSISTANCE Persistent high levels of long-term unemployment are indisputable proof that the Howard Government’s Job Network is failing to place the unemployed into jobs.

The number of long-term unemployed is today higher than it was when the Howard Government was first elected to office in March 1996 (Centrelink, various years).

While I welcome today’s tabling of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the Job Network, job seekers and in particularly, the long-term unemployed, don’t need a 550-page report to tell them that the current system of privatised employment services is failing them.

Frustration with the Job Network led one job seeker to protest to the Commission:

“You lose respect, you lose dignity, you’re humiliated, you’re in despair, you’re embarrassed, you’re angry, you’re frustrated and finally you just don’t care …You get very suicidal. I tend to. I am very angry.” (Page xxi)

The Productivity Commission found that most disadvantaged long-term unemployed were being “parked” in Intensive Assistance that is “neither intensive nor assistance” (Page 9.29).

The Productivity Commission has found that the Job Network is failing to support the long-term unemployed into work. In fact the $214 million underspend on the Job Network last financial year (2001/02) was a direct product of the system’s failure to find jobs for the unemployed at a rate anticipated by the Government.

Under the Government’s Job Network 3 the number of disadvantaged long-term unemployed that will be able to access the highest level of help available - Customised Assistance - will actually be cut from about 300,000 to just 167,000 each year!

This callous decision will leave hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged job seekers with only minimal assistance and few prospects of finding meaningful work - in effect abandoned by the Government.

In addition the duration of Customised Assistance will be reduced from 12 to 6 months. Mission Australia has argued that 6 months “might not be sufficient time to provide adequate support, counselling and training for this very disadvantaged group” (Press Release, 14/05/02).

If the Government gets its way with respect to Disability Support Pensions (DSP) the pressure on Job Network providers is only likely to increase. This will result in tens of thousands of people with disabilities be dumped into a system already overburdened and under-resourced.

Instead of preaching to the unemployed and labelling them everything from “dole bludgers” to “cruisers”, the Government should be investing more to help them into work.