Private job-seeking operators are stripping people of unemployment benefits without consulting government departments, leaving them with few avenues of redress despite up to 1 million mistakes being made last year, The Age reports.
The revelations come as Labor threatens to tear up some of the contracts in the $7.3 billion employment services sector – the largest area of government procurement after defence – and considers whether to abolish the work-for-the-dole scheme if it is elected.
A Per Capita report released in September accuses providers in the federal government’s Jobactive scheme of cutting corners, ticking boxes and only referring job seekers to skill development courses when they were being run by an associated company.
The research, based off Monash University-run focus groups around Australia for the past year, found the chronically understaffed multibillion-dollar private job assistance industry had become dominated by compliance rather than focusing on genuine assistance for job seekers.
Case managers within the Jobactive system have 150 unemployed workers on their caseload on average, according to Per Capita, while a separate Melbourne University study found counselling staff spend 35 per cent of their time on compliance.
Per Capita, a left-leaning think tank, found new legislation has exacerbated the problem for 650,000 unemployed Australians who been unable to access the jobs growth of the wider economy, despite the jobless rate falling to its lowest rate in five years after more than 1 millions jobs were added.
Since July, Centrelink’s power to overturn penalties imposed by providers on job seekers has been removed, leaving any unemployed person who failed to apply for at least 20 jobs a month or failed to attend a meeting at their provider with no direct course of appeal against the judgment of the job agency.