Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker today introduced legislation into the House of Representatives to ensure more job seekers attend their compulsory appointments with their employment providers.
The Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Job Seeker Compliance) Bill will tighten the rules to encourage more job seekers to attend their appointments with their providers - or to ring up ahead of time and reschedule - rather than simply not turn up and waste their employment provider’s time.
“In 2013-14, 12.75 million compulsory appointments with employment providers were scheduled and, of these, 4.47 million were not attended by job seekers," Mr Hartsuyker said.
"That is a non-attendance rate of 35 per cent and is simply not acceptable.
“In return for their income support, job seekers are asked to attend appointments with their employment provider to discuss job options and to review progress in finding work.
"These appointments are not onerous and are designed to maximise the chances of a person moving from welfare to work.
"Job seekers can ring up and reschedule their appointments if needed.
“The sheer volume of missed appointments creates a huge red-tape burden for our employment providers and adds to their costs.
"Instead of helping people with their job search, frontline staff end up wasting time trying to contact the job seeker to reschedule and in filling in forms to report the non-attendance.
“This issue is not restricted to just a small number of job seekers.
“In 2012-13, over 238,000 job seekers had at least one participation failure applied by the Department of Human Services for missing an appointment with their employment provider.
"In 2013-14, this had grown to almost 280,000 job seekers.
“These figures show that the problem Labor tried to resolve in 2011 persists and that further change is needed if we are to see a significant reduction in these numbers.
“The Bill I introduced today seeks to ensure that job seekers have a stronger incentive to do the right thing first time.
“At the moment, a person who fails to attend an appointment can have their income-support payment suspended and that suspension can simply be lifted by saying they will attend an appointment – even if they have no real intention of doing so.
"This means a person can receive their full income support – including for the days they failed to do the right thing.
“From 1 January 2015, if a job seeker fails to attend an appointment without a reasonable excuse, their income support will be suspended until they actually attend the next appointment.
“From 1 July 2015, if a job seeker has had their income-support payment suspended for failing to attend a regular appointment with their employment provider - and they have no reasonable excuse for that failure to attend - then they will not be back paid for the period of non-compliance.
“This provides a much stronger incentive for job seekers to either attend their scheduled appointment in the first place or to pick up the phone ahead of time, explain why they are unable to attend and, where it reasonable, get the appointment changed.
“This is what is expected of workers if they cannot make it to work, and it is only fair and reasonable that a similar standard is applied to those people in receipt of taxpayer-funded benefits.
“The Australian Government is committed to building a more efficient and effective employment services system that helps more job seekers into work, and to ensuring our income-support system is affordable and sustainable over the long term.
“The changes introduced today will provide stronger incentives for job seekers to take responsibility and take appropriate action with regard to appointments and significantly reduce the red tape burden for employment providers.
“I look forward to Labor and the minor parties supporting these sensible reforms to reduce the number of missed appointments and encourage more job seekers to take responsibility for their actions.”