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Over half a million Aussies have had their Centrelink payments suspended

Employment minister Michaelia Cash said the "mutual obligations" of welfare recipients was taken "very seriously" by the Coalition. (Source: AAP)
Employment minister Michaelia Cash said the "mutual obligations" of welfare recipients was taken "very seriously" by the Coalition. (Source: AAP)

Around 580,000 unemployed Australians in the Jobactive were cut off from welfare payments in the last financial year.

Payments were suspended because people were not looking for work, failing to attend job interviews or appointments, or behaved inappropriately in meetings, according to data released by employment minister Michaelia Cash.

The total number of payment suspensions surpassed 2 million over a 12-month period.

Many of these were repeat offenders.

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In fact, more than 60,000 people were cut off from welfare payments more than ten times in the year leading up to July 2019.

One person had their payments suspended 52 times, according to the Daily Telegraph.

In more than 2,000 cases, four-week financial penalties were issued.

What is Jobactive and how much do you get?

Job-seekers on the Jobactive program have to meet certain requirements such as attend regular meetings and apply for 20 jobs per month.

Payments are made by Newstart, which is the main income support payment supporting Aussie job-seekers while they look for work.

The Newstart allowance is paid fortnightly - single participants receive up to $555.70, while those with a dependent child receive $601.10.

But failure to meet requirements will see the payments reduced, suspended or stopped.

Is Jobactive fit for purpose?

Cash said in a statement that the Coalition took the “mutual obligation of welfare recipients very seriously”.

"When participants have their payments suspended up to 52 times in less than a year, they are not living up to what the taxpayer expects who are giving their hard-earned money to the government,” she said.

A Senate committee in February slammed the Jobactive program as “not fit for purpose”, while a survey in March of people looking for work found Jobactive had been unhelpful in helping them find work.

“I have tried to speak to the Jobactive agents about failure and rejection but they don’t ever give you hope or make you feel optimistic,” said WA-based 24-year-old job-seeker known as Chad.

“Instead they just say ‘thanks for coming to your screening today, see you next month’.”

A number of politicians, including former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, are among those calling for a raise to Newstart allowances, which include Labor, the Greens, business and welfare lobby groups, seniors, doctors, the Reserve Bank, and the Country Women's Association.

A 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.

–with AAP

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