Jobseekers remain in the dark just days out from major Centrelink unemployment changes

Less than a week out from the launch of the biggest overhaul of unemployment services in years, Emma Williamson says she still has “no idea what’s going on”.

Ms Williamson lives with severe endometriosis that limits her mobility, to the point she can’t stand or sit for more than an hour.

The 28-year-old lives in Raywood, a 20-minute drive outside of Bendigo in regional Victoria, and has been receiving the JobSeeker payment since 2018.

In the past few weeks, she’s been frantically trying to figure out if she will be able to stay on the payment in future.

Next week, a new unemployment scheme called Workforce Australia will replace the much-maligned jobactive system, which required jobseekers to submit 20 applications a month to keep their Centrelink payments.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment says the move will refresh a rigid system and give jobseekers greater choice in how they manage mutual obligations, the tasks people are required to continually complete to qualify for payments.

However, the transition has been shaky. Jobseekers such as Ms Williamson say the changes have been poorly communicated, causing fear and confusionand the changes themselves look to be no better than jobactive.

Ms Williamson and her family found out about the incoming system via the ABC, rather than any official government communication, and was left frustrated again when a Centrelink adviser as recently as this week could not tell her how she would be affected.

A woman with long blonde hair and a red beanie writing on a page
Emma Williamson is looking for more clarity on how next week’s changes will impact her.(ABC News: Tyrone Dalton)

On Tuesday, new Employment Minister Tony Burke announced 11th-hour changes to the reforms, aimed at improving them.

However, jobseekers remain concerned.

How the changes will work in practice is still unclear to many, leaving them in the dark about what they will need to do to keep their payments.

What’s changing?

Starting this Friday, July 1, jobactive will disappear and be replaced by Workforce Australia.

When that happens, more than 750,000 people will be placed into one of two Workforce Australia streams: an online portal for self-managing job searches, or into the management of a new job provider for face-to-face appointments.

Significantly, those who will be required to complete mutual obligations will also transition to a process where they will earn points for activities in return for income support.

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