Thousands of participants in the government’s controversial “work for the dole” scheme have been threatened with Centrelink cut offs, according to new reports from the ABC.
Between July 2015 and June 2017, some 15,000 participants in the scheme—officially known as the Community Development Programme (CDP)—violated the terms of their agreement. This means 43 percent of people of those taking part faced cut off from welfare payments for up to two months.
“Work for the dole” requires unemployed jobseekers to do 25 hours of “work-like activities” in order to receive their welfare payments each week. With benefits clocking in at $290 on average, this means participants are earning about $12 an hour, far below minimum wage. Overwhelmingly, those taking part in the scheme identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
According to the government, “failure” to comply means missing three appointments in a six-month period, leading to a reassessment by Centrelink. Additionally, fines of between $50 and $60 are issued when participants are late or miss their activities.
Labor’s Ed Husic labelled the scheme a “dud” during a debate in parliament last Thursday. The employment services and workforce participation spokesperson also noted the government is spending $156 million per year on the program, which leaves only three out of 10 compulsory participants able to find stable work.
Husic called out the nature of the work involved in the CDP as well. In 2016, 18-year-old Joshua Park-Fing died from work-related injuries as part of the program. There have also been cases of asbestos exposure, according to Husic.
The Turnbull Government introduced the CDP back to 2015 to help participants “build their skills, get a job and to participate to their maximum capacity… [to] benefit their community.” However, in reality it’s seen recipients forced to work up to three times longer than the average jobseeker in metropolitan areas in order to receive payments, according to the ABC.
The program has been criticised by a Senate committee as “racist” and “flawed” in December 2017. The committee proposed that the hours unemployed people must work be reduced and the cut off period be removed. Neither suggestions have been taken on board since.
The last we heard from the government on the CDP was last year when a spokesperson for Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said it “has had a transformational impact on thousands of remote jobseekers.” However, non-Indigenous CDP participants are twice as likely to secure ongoing work.
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