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Major Centrelink Jobseeker changes coming: Why people are worried

People waiting outside Centrelink
Centrelink JobSeeker recipients say they have received little information about the incoming points-based mutual obligation system. (Source: Getty)

Welfare advocates are calling on the Labor Government to delay the rollout of a new mutual-obligation system, saying it will lead to “more punishments” and more automated payment suspensions.

The “points-based activation system” (PBAS), which was introduced by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment in 2020 in trial form, is due to replace the existing mutual-obligation system on July 1.

Mutual obligations are a set of tasks that must be completed and expectations satisfied for JobSeeker recipients to receive their allowance.


The new points-based system has been billed as a more flexible way for people to meet their obligations by the department, by allowing welfare recipients to complete tasks - such as applying for a job or doing Work for the Dole hours - to acquire a predetermined number of points.

Job seekers must get 100 points in the month to qualify for JobSeeker payments under the new system.

But welfare advocates are worried it won’t solve existing issues.

Jeremy Poxon from the Australian Unemployed Workers' Union said people were already getting suspended regularly under the existing system.

“Now we've got new, even more targeted algorithms. [There’s] a bit of a sense of panic and dread from people,” Poxon said.

He said welfare recipients hadn’t been properly consulted during the trial period for the PBAS, and the department had provided minimal communication about the new system to recipients.

People are expected to get a chance to familiarise themselves with the system. The department told The Guardian suspensions would be cancelled for the first month of the rollout.

Poxon was also concerned about the design of the system, arguing that it “gamified” the existing mutual-obligations system and that there was “no rhyme or reason” to the point allocations.

By getting a new job, for example, you only get 20 points for the month.

He said that was “bizarre”, given the point of the system was to encourage people to find employment.

ACOSS deputy CEO Edwina MacDonald was also concerned about the points-based mutual-obligation model.

“In its current form, it does not provide the flexibility originally intended and risks reproducing the same issues that led to 200,000 people every month having their payment suspended in Jobactive,” she said.

MacDonald worried people without internet access or those with poor digital literacy would face difficulties with the online reporting system, and said there were ways the system could be made more manageable.

“One example is to automatically reduce the requirements for older workers, parents, people with disability and people living in regions with few jobs,” she said.

“Requiring people who are already working 20 hours per week, or doing full-time Work for the Dole, to continue to complete points for other tasks is unnecessarily onerous.”

She also said people undergoing health treatments, including drug and alcohol therapy, should be supported to fully recover without “onerous requirements to report points”.

A department spokesperson has said there would be some flexibility on how the points would be awarded based on individual circumstances.

Poxon called on the new Minister for Employment, Tony Burke, to suspend the introduction of the new system until the new Government took a “proper look” at the system.

Poxon said people were expecting “more punishments to come” under the new system, given welfare recipients had been on the receiving end of some “very terrible” digital tools and algorithms, such as RoboDebt.

“It's another sort of digital tool and a different algorithm that's going to say whether they get to eat that week or not,” he said.

Burke has been contacted for comment about the PBAS system.

How the points are allocated

Job seekers get points for different tasks and activities that contribute to their total score.

According to the DESE website, job seekers would need to work for 25 contact hours per week to meet the requirements for full-time participation. Part-time participation would be 15 hours a week.

Tasks and activities

Points value (1)

Relocation for a job

100 points

Self-Employment Assistance Small Business Training

25 points per week

Launch into Work (2)

25 points per week

PaTH Internship

25 points per week

National Work Experience Program (2)

25 points per week

25 points per week (high-intensity level)

20 points per week (medium-intensity level)

15 points per week (low-intensity level)

Self-Employment Assistance Exploring Self-Employment workshop

20 points per week

Career Transition Assistance

15 points per week

Employability Skills Training

20 points per week (full-time)

15 points per week (part-time)

Work for the Dole (2)

20 points per week (full-time)

15 points per week (part-time)

20 points per week (full-time)

15 points per week (part-time)

Education and training

20 points per week (full-time)

15 points per week (part-time)

Adult Migrant English Program

20 points per week (full-time)

15 points per week (part-time)

Skills for Education and Employment

20 points per week

Starting a job

20 points

Attending a job interview

20 points

Attending a job fair

20 points (points can be claimed for one job fair per year)

Career coaching (3)

20 points

Driver’s licence attainment (2)

20 points

Work related licences and qualifications(For example, forklift licence/white card)

15 points

Defence Force Reserves

10 points (based on minimum of one weekend per month)

Provider workshops (2)(For example, work preparation activities/job clubs)

10 points

Counselling (2)

10 points

Drug and alcohol rehabilitation (2)

10 points

Self help and support groups (2)

10 points

Non-vocational interventions (2)(Cultural services, personal development courses)

10 points

Completing a job application (job search)

5 points

Driver’s licence hours

5 points for 5 hours

Online learning modules

5 points (maximum of 5 points per month)

Creating and updating the profile

5 points (maximum of 5 points per month)

Paid work

5 points for 5 hours (rounded up)

Participant sourced voluntary work(For example, fire reserves, school canteen)

5 points for 5 hours (maximum of 10 points per month)

(Source: The Department of Education, Skills and Employment)

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