Labor announces last minute changes to Centrelink payments, days before major job seekers shake up

The Employment Secretary has announced last minute changes to an impending Centrelink shakeup that will move mutual obligations for job seekers to a points system, admitting the old system had “huge problems”.

Employment Secretary Tony Burke has announced last-minute changes to Centrelink rules, days before a controversial points-based system of mutual obligations goes into effect.

Starting Monday, a new service called Workforce Australia will replace JobActive, shifting the process of mutual commitments to a points-based activation system (PBAS).

The new system requires job seekers to accumulate 100 points and apply for a minimum of four jobs per month to continue receiving their payments.

Under the former JobActive scheme, people were required to submit 20 applications per month.

Stream your news live and on demand with Flash for $8/month and no stalled contracts. New to Flash? Try 1 month free. Offer ends October 31, 2022

The rollout has been heavily criticized for being poorly communicated, with the Australian Unemployed Union’s Trade Union describing the program as “inhumane”.

Speaking to Sky News Australia’s Kieran Gilbert on Wednesday, Mr Burke said the PBAS had been locked up by the previous government after $7 billion in contracts with providers were signed.

He said he was working on changes to make it “the best system possible”, but admitted the previous scheme was flawed.

“The old system had huge problems and you ask anyone whose employer … you get a series of applications where clearly people are ticking because they have to apply,” he said.

“So what we want to do is have a system where we basically ask people, as part of a mutual obligation, to do things that help them find a job.”

“For some people that might mean getting a forklift certificate, for others maybe a driver’s license, for others an English course.

“But the concept is that we properly recognize what people are doing, and count that, so that we no longer have this ridiculous situation as if firing 20 applications — whether they’re appropriate or not — is everything.

“It’s not a good system until we use it to get people to work and that’s what I’ve changed with it.”

He said Labor’s system would differ from the previous government’s scheme in taking the personal circumstances of job seekers into account.

“Not everyone, but a disproportionate number of people are long-term unemployed,” Burke said.

“And many of these individuals have had a range of other challenges in their lives that have made it difficult for them to return to work. Now it will not work with 20 requests per month, they have been doing it for years and that is clearly not the solution.

“(Labour) have a much more strategic approach here – the goal is not to punish here, the goal is to look at people’s circumstances and say okay, what help do you need to make the transition from being unemployed to finding you on your way back to the job market.”

On Tuesday, Mr Burke announced a new “clean slate” policy that would forgive fines and demerit points accumulated under the old system.

He said the new system would give job seekers a “fresh start”.

Mr. Burke also announced changes to the PBAS, including increasing the points value for some activities, as well as lowering the points goals for some participants based on personal circumstances.

The minimum job search requirement has been reduced from five to four applications per month, and job seekers deemed vulnerable will have no requirements if they take an approved course.

The new system was described as a more flexible way for recipients to meet their obligations, but came under fire from welfare advocates, who feared the design would tie in with Centrelink’s Robodebt disaster in 2016.

“Using technology to ‘gamify’ hunger points is morally offensive to basic human decency,” the Australian Unemployment Union said in a statement.

“Due to the traumatic recent history of government abuse of welfare recipients, our members are confused and scared by the new system.

“This is not the design of a humane welfare system – this is the design of a digital workhouse set up to brutalize people in desperate economic need and push them out of the system and onto the streets.”

Under the new changes, job seekers are required to earn points by performing job search related tasks or activities.

Filling out a job application would earn you five points, working for the Dole would earn you 20 points a week for more than 15 hours of contact, and getting a driver’s license would earn someone 25 points.

Leave a Comment