Describing the experiences of people who used the Jobactive employment service, a new report from the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) provides a roadmap for how the new employment services system ‘Workforce Australia’ – which commences on 1 July – can improve.

Based on a survey of 299 people, Voices 2 highlights the distress people experience when trying to survive on low welfare payments, while simultaneously responding to onerous mutual obligation requirements and payment suspensions.

The results show that people who have been out of paid work for a long time need a more personalised service where they can take the initiative and have more control over their job search.

Conversely, the survey reported positive experiences when practical support was provided flexibly and quickly, such as when people were directly provided with equipment or licenses that enabled them to obtain employment.

ACOSS is concerned that, while the new Workforce Australia system was intended to offer more choice and agency for people as they search for employment, it retains many problematic features from the old employment services system (Jobactive) that must be changed.

Survey findings

The survey results from 299 respondents highlighted several chronic issues with jobactive employment services relating to quality, usefulness, and fairness:

  • People were overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the services provided: 75% of respondents reported they were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their jobactive service, while just 10% reported they were satisfied. 46% of respondents indicated that appointments were for less than 10 minute and were a tick-a-box exercise.
  • Consultants and providers were not helpful: 59% of respondents reported that they did not see the same consultants regularly; 61% did not agree that consultants are well-trained; 62% said consultants were not sympathetic and 65% said they did not provide appropriate support.
  • There was a lack of personalisation, choice, and control: although 89% of the respondents agreed it was important to have choice about the requirements in their job plan, 65% of respondents did not choose the activities in their plans, 75% believed the number of hours of activity were not right for them, and 52% said the job plan did not accommodate their caring responsibilities or disability.
  • Payment suspensions are unfair: 61% thought unemployment payment suspensions they had received were unfair, 58% indicated they had received ‘demerit points’ (which may lead to a loss of future payments) because of provider errors, and 66% said they had payment suspensions because of provider errors.
  • Payment suspensions cause harm: 33% of people who had received payment suspensions indicated that they had caused high levels of stress and anxiety, while 11% indicated they were unable to pay rent on time due to payment suspensions.
  • Complaints processes are not accessible or helpful: 70% disagreed that it was easy to make a complaint, 72% did not think their complaint would result in changes to the service and 59% did not find the Department of Education Skills and Employment’s National Customer Service Line easy to get through to.
  • Positive experiences were reported when support was provided flexibly and quickly, such as when people were directly provided with equipment or licenses that enabled them to get jobs. Examples of this included being supported to obtain white cards (for construction work), licenses, or work clothing.

Read the ‘Voices 2’ report here.

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