Centrelink obligations are hurting people – and do not lead to work

The Government has restarted mutual obligations and demerit points for job seekers after the pandemic – but a landmark study from Anglicare Australia shows that this is hurting people instead of leading to work.

Released today, Asking Those Who Know includes interviews and a survey with over 600 Centrelink users. It found that:

  • An overwhelming number of people (74 percent) want to do Centrelink activities that are fair. Even more (75 percent) want to do activities that lead to work
  • However, most people believe their Centrelink activities are pointless (79 percent)
  • Very few people believe that Centrelink obligations are helping them find paid work (13 percent)
  • Almost two thirds of people (58 percent) have had a Centrelink debt. Almost half of the time, Centrelink errors caused the debt (47 percent)
  • Breaches and payment cut-offs are often the fault of Centrelink, but people are the ones who pay the price.

“This survey tells us two things. First, we need to stop punishing people for mistakes made by Government systems,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

“The Government raises debts on people who were overpaid because of Centrelink errors. They are punished when they miss appointments they were never told about. People don’t get a chance to appeal their breaches until after their payments have been cut-off.

“The punishments are harsh, but cuts to Centrelink and its staff have led to rampant mistakes. It is impossible to know if their systems are accurate. Why should we assume the worst of people working through rules that Centrelink’s own staff can’t work out?

“It also tells us that we need to overhaul the system. People are forced to run a gauntlet of interviews, reporting, and administration that isn’t leading to work. Instead it’s stopping them from finding work, harming people, and driving some to despair.

“Lynchpins of the system, like Work for the Dole and Jobactive, have repeatedly been shown to fail – and they waste millions of dollars a year. This study shows that people on the coalface know it.

“Yet the people we spoke to actually want to do activities that matter, and that lead them into work. Instead they are being forced into pointless busywork. “We need to fix this system once and for all. It’s time to stop punishing people for being out of work, and start giving them the support they need,” Ms Chambers said.

Click here to read Asking Those Who Know.