Work for the Dole scheme is Dangerous and Useless, Say Unions and Lawyers

"I've never met anybody who said they've picked up any skills on it."
April 19, 2018, 4:25am
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According to its website, Australia's Work for the Dole scheme, jobactive, is "the Australian Government’s way to get more Australians into work. It connects job seekers with employers and is delivered by a network of jobactive providers in over 1700 locations across Australia".

The program's conditions vary according to age, with those 30 and under generally required to work 25 hours per week for six months each year to receive the dole. Young people are thought to be the scheme's biggest demographic, with placements including working in retail, for gardening and maintenance companies, and in warehouses.

But, as reported by the ABC, some are calling on the Federal Government to ditch the scheme, which they say puts young people in danger due to insufficient workplace training and safety measures.

Melbourne lawyer David Beattie has represented several people injured while on a jobactive placement. Speaking to ABC's the Signal, he said the scheme was risky and should be binned. "I've never met anybody who said they've picked up any skills on it," Beattie said.

"It's very rare that you'll get any induction or any training … I think it's more about punishment than getting people into rehabilitation or them getting new skills."

The Department of Jobs and Small Business stipulates on its website that every jobactive provider must conduct "a risk assessment of each potential Work for the Dole place they source to ensure there is a safe system of work". They must also provide "workplace inductions and training".

But Jeremy Poxon from Melbourne's Australian Unemployed Workers' Union in Melbourne told the ABC that one third of the calls to the union's helpline were about safety issues related to jobactive.

"It's a very unregulated program," Poxon said. "We hear that a lot of these workers aren't getting proper training, and that these sites aren't complying with standard workplace health and safety procedures."

In 2016, 18-year-old Josh Park-Fing was killed on a rubbish-collecting placement at the Toowoomba Showgrounds when his tractor malfunctioned. “Their injuries and lives are not considered to be worth as much as those involved in paid employment,” then-Unemployed Workers’ Union president, Owen Bennett said at the time.

Josh Park-Fing with his mother. Source: Facebook

Josh's father, Iain Park, told the ABC his son had been concerned about the safety of his placement tasks, and that four hours before he was killed "[Josh] was stating that basically he'd hurt his back, and he had been trying to take the day off." The teen's death is the subject of ongoing court proceedings.

In 2015, statistics showed that three months after completing the Work for the Dole scheme, only 11.7 percent of jobseekers were in full time work. However, an independent report looking at outcomes of the scheme between 2014-15 cast a more favourable light, indicating that among jobseekers, "81 percent said they were treated like a valuable member of staff".