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Stephanie Peatling
April 14, 2009

THE Federal Government is being urged to consider less onerous conditions for job seekers as part of the transition to a new system for employment services.

Talks with welfare groups have been brought forward by the Government, which wants to hear their suggestions about how to help unemployed people deal with the new arrangements.

“Employment service providers generally do a good job, but the current situation is very difficult for unemployed people and no one seems to be focusing on those difficulties,” the policy officer at the National Welfare Rights Network, Gerard Thomas, said.

The Job Network will be renamed Job Services Australia and all existing employment programs merged from July 1.

As a result of the changes some existing job agencies will be replaced by new operators.

A meeting between the Welfare Rights Network and the Minister for Employment Participation, Brendan O’Connor, was scheduled to be held late next month but will be held this month to help ensure the changeover period runs smoothly.

Welfare groups are concerned the transition period may lead to a higher rate of penalties for job seekers who fail to meet the conditions of their payments due to confusion over the changes.

They want a formal transition period in which welfare recipients have the conditions of their payments eased and penalties applied more sparingly.

The main change that the welfare network wants introduced is a reduction in the number of jobs unemployed people must apply for to continue receiving their welfare payments. “The Government should review in the current economic climate whether it is still reasonable for job seekers to look for 10 jobs a fortnight,” Mr Thomas said.

Other transitional arrangements the network wants include making it easier for job seekers to change case workers if they report to someone they do not get along with.

Employment agencies already have a high staff turnover – about 35 per cent a year.

“This lack of continuity is a major source of complaint for job seekers,” Mr Thomas said.

“It takes a lot for job seekers to tell managers what the barriers to them finding work are. That might be mental illness or a situation of domestic violence.”

Other changes the network wants the Government to consider are increasing the supplement paid to people who participate in work for the dole projects, and directing employment agencies to take a more compassionate approach to job seekers struggling to come to terms with the new system. The Government has already said it is aware of the confusion the changes to the employment system could cause.

Mr O’Connor has announced there will be a one-year transition period to shepherd in the changes but he has not yet announced the details.

At a conference last week he defended the changes, arguing that they were necessary to help the growing number of people who are losing their jobs because of the deteriorating economy.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/relax-dole-test-urges-welfare-network-20090413-a4sm.html?page=-1

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