Church pressure wins Govt change of heart on unemployed

CLICK HEREFederal cabinet will consider softening the harsh rules on the unemployed at the heart of its welfare crackdown after lobbying from church-based groups including Catholic Welfare Australia.

The Australian reports today that Church-based Job Network agencies had threatened to pull out of the privatised system if the rules, first outlined in the May budget, were not changed.

Catholic Welfare Australia, Uniting Care, Anglicare and the Salvation Army, who together hold 20% of Job Network services, formed an alliance after the budget to oppose the changes.

After months of debate between ministers in the area, Employment Minister Kevin Andrews will present a draft to federal cabinet to alter the proposal that would see welfare recipients immediately lose their money if they failed to attend interviews or perform similar tasks.

Under the budget measure, Centrelink was told it had to automatically stop the money going to people on the dole as soon as they received a report from a Job Network provider telling them to do so.

But under the new proposal to be discussed today, Centrelink would not automatically stop dole payments. Instead, Centrelink would be required to contact the welfare recipient and find out why they had failed to meet their mutual-obligation requirements.

If the jobseeker had a good excuse, they would not be cut off welfare. But if Centrelink discovered they were "shirking" their obligations, their welfare would be retrospectively cut from the day they failed to turn up to an appointment.

The compromise comes after a long consultative process with the welfare sector. But the Government has said it will not cave in to all the welfare lobby's demands.

It is understood the church-based providers also pushed for the abandonment of the eight-week suspension period for jobseekers who did not fulfil their obligations. But the Government will keep its tough penalties on jobseekers deemed to be not genuinely looking for work.

Church lobby to get way on dole (The Australian 5/9/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Welfare Australia
Centacare Employment
Centacare Employment (Archdiocese of Brisbane)
Job Network

Federal Budget boosts family relationships (CathNews 11/5/05)
Catholic Welfare stands up for long-term unemployed (CathNews 2/5/05)

Church lobbies for softening of harsh rules (The Australian/news.com.au 5/9/05)

5 Sep 2005