Catholic Social Services struggles to help hardcore unemployed

Catholic Social Services and other agencies providing assistance for the long-term unemployed are finding it hard to make ends meet as they struggle to place the most disadvantaged people who often face "multiple barriers" to employment.

According to The Australian, the agencies say little money is coming in because they cannot "churn" people through the system.

"Some of our services are reducing the number of workers; some of our agencies have laid off staff," Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) Executive Director, Frank Quinlan, told The Australian.

"Our system is really struggling to provide help to them. People are less and less in need of a recruitment service because people who are able to work will find work quickly anyway. It's the disadvantaged ones that are hard to place."

Mr Quinlan said that the government's existing Job Network system was designed for entirely different "economic and social circumstances to the ones that exist now", with the unemployment rate at a 30-year low of 4.8 per cent.

The result is that job agencies have been forced to lay off staff as the booming economy and record low unemployment rates leave them stuck with only the most difficult to place workers.

The current intermediate payment for the employment agencies is $550 after a person has been in a job for 13 weeks. If a jobseeker has been unemployed for more than three years, this rises to $1100 at 13 weeks and a further $1100 is paid at 26 weeks.

"We haven't seen appropriate indexation so we are seeing a real decline in outcome payments over time and a real increase in the level of difficulty in achieving jobs for these people," Mr Quinlan said.

Mr Quinlan says the system should be geared towards the hardcore unemployed.

"It's served its purpose but now we need to shift the emphasis," he said. "It's harder and harder to provide viable services if we know that the people we are assisting have higher and higher levels of need, and we only receive funding when we achieve outcomes for our clients. So if we achieve less outcomes, our income is going to decline."

CSSA attacks proposed sentencing law changes

In another statement released last Friday, Mr Quinlan, also criticised a sentencing bill currently before the Federal Parliament, saying it will not address the problem of violence in Indigenous communities, but will increase the potential for injustice in sentencing decisions affecting Indigenous people and other cultural minorities.

According to the statement, under the proposed changes, judges passing sentence on Federal offences will no longer be required to consider a person's "cultural background" where this is relevant and will not be allowed to take account of customary practices and customary law.

In its submission to the Inquiry by the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs into the Crime Amendment (Bail and Sentencing) Bill 2006, CSSA recommended the Bill should not be passed in its current form.

Mr Quinlan noted that of the ten publicly available submissions to the Inquiry, not one supports the passage of the Bill.

"We are concerned that the proposed changes will discriminate against Indigenous people and other cultural minorities.

"Catholic Social Services Australia acknowledges the need to address the incidence of violent crime in Indigenous communities, but this Bill will not address the problem," he said.

Job agencies feel pinch (Australian, 2/10/03)
Proposed sentencing laws will lead to more injustice (Catholic Social Services Australia Media Release, 29/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Social Services Australia

Tax system creating poverty traps: Catholic Social Services (CathNews, 21/9/06)
Catholic agencies hit back at Govt over welfare-to-work (CathNews 24/8/06)
Catholic Social Services challenges Labor on commitment to poor (CathNews, 22/8/06)
Triple whammy for low income households: CSSA (CathNews 3/8/06)
Low unemployment should pave way for training places: CSSA (CathNews 14/7/06)
New welfare-to-work rules spell disaster: Catholic Social Services (CathNews, 3/7/06)
Catholic Social Services baulks at cooperation with harsh policy (CathNews 7/6/06)
Catholic Social Services welcomes falling unemployment (CathNews 26/5/06)
Catholic Welfare not surprised as tax report overlooks battlers (CathNews 13/4/06)
Vinnies says "no" to Govt money (CathNews 6/4/06)
Reform tax on poor, Catholic welfare chief says (CathNews 16/3/06)

3 Oct 2006