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Centrelink changes: Controversial Workforce Australia program investigated

·2-min read
Centrelink sign and Tony Burke
The Workforce Australia select committee will report back to Parliament next year. (Source: Getty)

The new points-based mutual obligations system for people receiving Centrelink JobSeeker payments will be scrutinised by a newly-formed parliamentary select committee.

The new House of Representatives select committee will examine the Workforce Australia jobs program that came into force on July 1.

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke said some aspects of the program required renewed scrutiny, including an inconsistent user experience across the different providers.

“The Government believes in a robust and flexible mutual obligation system that gets people job ready while they’re claiming JobSeeker,” Burke said.

“There are some aspects of the new program we believe require fresh parliamentary scrutiny and oversight.”

Burke said the previous government locked in Workforce Australia by signing more than $7 billion worth of contracts with providers in the lead-up to the last election.

“We are concerned we have ended up with a system that is driven more by the details of contracts with providers than the legislation the previous government brought to Parliament.”

What is the new system?

The new system has been pitched as a more flexible way for people to meet their job-seeking obligations by allowing welfare recipients to complete tasks - such as applying for a job - in return for points.

To receive welfare payments, people must acquire 100 points each month.

Welfare advocates and recipients have criticised the poor communication throughout the Workforce Australia rollout.

Many also voiced their concerns about the design of the system, including how few points some job-seeking tasks attracted.

Despite these concerns, the Labor Government pushed ahead with the former government's scheme, though it did make a few tweaks to the point allocations.

Labor also decided to waive any penalties or demerits acquired under the old system and has extended the suspension on payment penalties.

The committee will keep an eye on the system for the first 12 months and look for opportunities for quick improvements and longer-term reforms.

“It will take evidence on where best practice is occurring and where it is not,” Burke said.

The committee will report back to Parliament in September 2023.

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