The Gillard Government is committed to supporting jobs and the 2012-13 Budget will continue to build on our investments in skills, training and assistance.
Last year, we announced the Building Australia’s Future Workforce package which is already benefiting more than 230,000 Australians.
Protecting jobs has been the number one priority of the Gillard Government from day one, and these measures reflect that commitment.
Reform of the training system
In this Budget, we will build on the Government’s significant skills investment to ensure more Australians can access the training they need to improve their employment prospects and prepare them for the jobs of the future.
The latest tranche of the National Workforce Development Fund will support 130 new workplace skills projects with an additional 15,000 individuals benefitting from training. This $43 million round of funding will take the total allocated in 2011-12 through the NWDF to approximately $110 million.
The Government will invest $6.5 million in funding to develop and expand the My Skills website and $18.1 million over four years to establish three Australian Skills Centres of Excellence.
These initiatives will complement the $1.75 billion National Partnership Agreement secured by the Prime Minister at the latest Council of Australian Governments meeting.
This new agreement will enable 375,000 additional students over five years to complete their qualifications, and improve training enrolments and completions in high-level skills and among key groups of disadvantaged students, including Indigenous Australians.
Working age Australians will be entitled to a government-subsidised training place to obtain a qualification up to their first Certificate III, including foundation skills or lower qualifications within the Certificate III.
The Australian Government will also make available HECS-style loans for government-subsidised diploma and advanced diploma students, which will reduce upfront costs for students undertaking higher level qualifications.
Encouraging parents to participate in work
Changes to Parenting Payment
From 1 January 2013, the Government is introducing a more generous income test for single principal carer parents on Newstart Allowance.
This will better reward these parents’ employment efforts through a single lower taper rate of 40 cents in the dollar for income above $62 a fortnight, replacing the current Newstart Allowance taper rate of 50 cents in the dollar for fortnightly income between $62 and $250 and 60 cents in the dollar for income above $250.
This will allow single principal carer parents to earn around $400 more per fortnight, before ceasing eligibility for payment.
In addition, from 1 January 2013, eligibility for income support for parents will be made fairer and more equitable by the ending of grandfathering provisions from Parenting Payment which was introduced in 2006.
This will mean that all parents in the same circumstances, irrespective of when they first applied for income support, will be treated the same.
Parenting Payment recipients previously covered by grandfathering arrangements will be provided with relevant and timely assistance, such as access to professional career advice, child-care assistance and employment services.
The Government believes the best thing it can do for Australians looking for work is to help them get a job in order to achieve greater financial security for their families.
Child care assistance
In this Budget, we are making it easier for parents with young children in receipt of income support to return to work by extending the reach of the popular Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance (JETCCFA) payment.
An additional $225.1 million over four years will enable 130,000 families to access this assistance.
JETCCFA provides additional help with the cost of approved child care for eligible parents undertaking activities such as job search, work, study or rehabilitation as part of an Employment Pathway Plan to help them enter or re-enter the workforce.
The number of parents accessing JETCCFA increased in 2010-11, with about 30,000 parents accessing assistance so they can study, undertake a training course or look for work. About 80 per cent of parents who access JETCCFA are single parents.
The Government is also targeting this assistance so that parents who receive it are undertaking the qualifications that will most increase their chances to re-enter the workforce.
New employer incentives for disadvantaged job seekers
The Gillard Government is delivering a range of new employer incentive initiatives across Australia, to encourage businesses to employ long-term unemployed and people with disabilities.
New initiatives include:
- Wage Connect – which started on 1 January this year and provides job seekers with the opportunity to gain paid work and to transition to greater financial independence. At the same time, employers are able to offset the costs of wages and training for the first six months a person is employed. There have been almost 4,000 job placements as a result of this incentive so far.
Disability Employment Broker program – a $1 million discretionary grants program will start from 1 July 2012 to fund up to 10 projects to improve employment outcomes for Disability Employment Services participants. The projects will target small-to-medium employers in regional locations, and will help create job opportunities for people with disability by building relationships with employers and industry groups.
- The Government is also supporting Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to deliver the ‘Think Outside the Box Campaign’ and is providing funding for Disability Employment Australia to raise awareness with employers of the benefits of a diverse workforce.
Tackling entrenched disadvantage and roadblocks to work
This year, the Government is trialling new approaches to tackle entrenched disadvantage in 10 locations – focussing on getting young parents back to school and in training, and helping jobless families with children into work.
The locations are Kwinana in Western Australia; Playford in South Australia; Hume and Greater Shepparton in Victoria; Burnie in Tasmania; Bankstown, Shellharbour and Wyong in New South Wales; and Logan and Rockhampton in Queensland.
New participation requirements for young parents in these communities commenced on 1 January this year and in the first three months, around 400 young parents signed up to go back to school across the 10 locations.
Young parents involved in the trial have participated in around 160 parenting programs and their children have attended 370 early childhood activities such as playgroups and child care.
From 1 July, around 22,000 jobless families on long-term income support will also be required to meet new participation requirements.
We will also roll out income management in five of the 10 trial sites from 1 July 2012, to ensure that welfare payments are spent in the best interests of children.
Income management will be rolled out in Playford in South Australia, Greater Shepparton in Victoria, Bankstown in New South Wales and Rockhampton and Logan in Queensland.
Increased financial and family support services will also be rolled out in these locations.
Reforming the Disability Support Pension
Over the last three Budgets, the Government has overhauled key aspects of the Disability Support Pension (DSP) to better target it to those who need it most, while continuing to ensure that individuals with some capacity to work are able to access the support they need to do so.
We are investing $3 billion in disability employment services and we have reformed DSP assessments, so that people who apply for DSP - other than those with a severe impairment or illness - need to show they have tried to find work before they can be eligible to receive the payment.
Assessments are now conducted by more experienced Senior Job Capacity Assessors employed by the Department of Human Services (DHS) and are supported by advice from DHS’s Health Professional Advisory Unit, resulting in more thorough and consistent assessments of claims. This is an improvement on the assessment process under the previous Government, where around half of DSP claims were assessed by private organisations.
In addition, this year we have introduced revised Impairment Tables to ensure that people who apply for the DSP are assessed based on what they can do, rather than on what they cannot do. The previous tables had been in place since 1997.
These reforms are having an impact on the number of people being granted the DSP. In April this year, 40.7 per cent of all new DSP claims were granted, compared to 63.3 per cent on 1 July 2010, a drop of more than 22 percentage points.
From 1 July this year, we are introducing further reforms to encourage greater participation in the workforce by DSP recipients, including:
- Introducing new participation requirements for recipients under the age of 35 with some capacity to work;
- Providing more generous rules to allow all people receiving the DSP to work up to 30 hours a week and still receive DSP, subject to income and assets tests; and
- Supporting employers to take on more DSP recipients through new financial incentives.
Helping more people into jobs in remote Australia
From 1 July 2013, the new $1.5 billion Remote Jobs and Communities Program will provide a more integrated and flexible approach to employment and participation services for people living in remote areas of Australia.
The Remote Jobs and Communities Program will see jobseekers assisted by a single provider with a permanent presence in their region, ensuring they are receiving better support to get the skills needed to get a job.
This will provide people with better service on the ground, rather than the fly-in-fly-out support that currently operates in many places.
It will also ensure people who are not working are participating in activities that contribute to developing strong and sustainable communities.
Job seekers will get personalised support from this single, local point of call, ensuring they are assisted to have the right skills needed to match local job opportunities.