Hearing learns of failure of Job Active Network

T he Job Active Network is failing to help the unemployed, according to Senator Deborah O’Neill.

Senator O’Neill was speaking with Coast Community News from a Public Hearing of the Senate Inquiry into Jobactive, Australia’s main employment service for the unemployed, held at the Crown Plaza, Terrigal, on Tuesday, November 20. Among the witnesses were representatives from ET Training College, Gosford, and the Australian Council of Social Services.

Senator O’Neill said the aim of the hearing was “to receive evidence from within the Job Active provider network and from the people forced to engage with it. “It is simply not doing what you would expect when you become unemployed,” she said. “This is a profoundly punitive system, where the government is not listening to the providers of the service or the unemployed. “The government is driving a system rather than supporting people, that is the key to the problem,” she said. Witnesses, including local employers, NGOs and advocates detailed flaws with the Jobactive program, including a failure to work with local businesses, no incentives for providers to work together, and a constant “churn” of unemployed locals recycling back into the system.

Tony Moylan from ET Training College in Gosford, cited a lack of commitment by Jobactive service providers to engage with employers as a significant barrier for local businesses to employ through Job Active. “

I don’t know any local employer who has used Job Active in the last 12 months,” Moyan said, adding these failures were contributing to the Coast’s youth unemployment crisis.

“Job Active is no longer adequate,” to deal with our unemployment crisis, he said. During the Hearing, Senior Advisor from ACOSS, Peter Davidson, offered criticism of the Government’s jobs plan.

Citing a report released by ACOSS titled “Voices of the Unemployed”, Davidson highlighted case studies including a testimony from a local single mother who said her experience with Job Active service providers was ‘painful, annoying, waste of time, soul destroying’. The report found the concern for many unemployed users to be that “providers were motivated by profits rather than improving people’s lives”. The NSW Chamber of Business outlined what it saw as a skills shortage due to cuts to TAFE, apprentices and training incentives.

“There are clear skills shortages in regional pockets across NSW,” said Luke Aitken, Senior manager at the NSW Chamber of Business. Megan Petrass, also representing the Chamber, said: “Apprenticeships have generally been in decline for the last five years”. Community Environment Network (CEN) used a Job Active provider to employ three workers under the Government’s ‘work-for-thedole’ scheme. John Asquith, Chair of CEN, said the workers were vastly underqualified for the IT work they were hired to undertake, and after nearly six months, the organisation was left short changed when the Job Active provider failed to deliver the subsidy promised.

The provider never returned their calls and emails and CEN was forced to absorb the $8,000 loss. For many locals, all of this isn’t a surprise, Senator O’Neill concluded. “At 15.5 per cent, the Central Coast ranks as the fourth highest youth unemployment rate in NSW,” she said. “Since 2013, the number of local apprenticeships has fallen by 37 per cent and enrolments at Hunter TAFE have plummeted by thousands. “These are the institutions which should be equipping our young people to gain employment.

“Today’s hearing demonstrated that the government’s jobs program doesn’t work and these cuts in education have left our young people without the skills to get a job. “We know only 35 per cent of people in this government’s Work for the Dole program find employment with only 16 per cent getting full time work. “We heard that jobseekers are being churned through appointment after appointment, provider after provider, and not securing work.”

Source: Interview, Nov 20 Deborah O’Neill, Senator for NSW Media release, Nov 20 Rhys Zorro, office of Deborah O’Neill Jackie Pearson, journalist

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