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120,000 Aussies who had Centrelink payments suspended weren’t to blame

Over 120,000 Australians who had their Centrelink payments suspended weren't to blame. Source: Getty

News broke last week that around 580,000 unemployed Australians in the Jobactive program were cut off from their welfare payments in the last financial year.

Those payments were suspended because job-seekers were allegedly not actively looking for work, failing to attend job interviews or appointment or behaving inappropriately in meetings, employment minister Michaelia Cash said.

The payments were suspended as part of changes to the welfare system introduced in July last year, which automatically suspends a welfare recipient’s payments when their job agency records them as not meeting a ‘mutual obligation’.

But The Guardian has now released new data showing that over 120,000 welfare recipients who had those payments suspended were later found by their job agency to have had valid reasons for not meeting their obligations.

That data showed Jobactive providers of one in five people who were cut off from welfare accepted reasonable excuses for missing appointment or compulsory activity.

According to The Guardian, only 460,262 of those 581,866 people were handed a ‘demerit point’ by their job agency, which meant that 121,604 people who had their income support suspended weren’t at fault.

Newstart still in the spotlight

This new revelation follows continual political noise around Newstart, provides the Jobactive payments of $555.70 for singles and $601.10 for those with a dependent child.

Last week, Barnaby Joyce made headlines for speaking out in favour of increasing Newstart payments by $75 per week – a move which was rejected by the Liberal Party.

Yesterday, Dick Smith also spoke out against the limited payments on Newstart.

“The Prime Minister likes to talk about ‘having a go to get a go’, but I wonder if he really understands the great difficulty thousands of Australians have in finding a job,” he wrote in an opinion piece in Wednesday’s Australian newspaper.

Senate review into the adequacy of Newstart payments is underway, with submissions to close on 13 September 2019 and a report to be prepared by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee by 27 March 2020.

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