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Controversial new rules for Centrelink payment take effect

Australia has rung in the new financial year, and with it comes a raft of changes for those who use Centrelink services. In particular, job-seekers have to get their heads around a new system of recording their activities to maintain their JobSeeker payments.

From today, a new points-based activation system (PBAS) replaces the previous mutual obligation JobActive program, which required participants to apply for no fewer than 20 jobs each calendar month.

As of this month, that minimum will no longer apply, with qualification now based on a newly formed service known as Workforce Australia. Formulated by the previous Morrison government, the new system has come under fire from various quarters, including the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, which called on the new Albanese government to abandon its implementation.

Read: What are the options when facing unemployment later in life?

Although new employment minister Tony Burke has acknowledged some concerns with the system, he said it was too late to prevent its implementation.

The government has made some concessions however, introducing minor ‘tweaks’ aimed at making the system slightly less onerous. One of those is the reduction of the monthly minimum job applications from five to four.

Job applications now comprise only part of the new system, which requires job seekers to accumulate 100 points of activities each month to maintain their government allowance.

Read: Centrelink to cut staff as union warns of wait-time chaos

Under the scheme, each job applied for earns the job seeker five points, but rather than applying for 20 jobs a month – which many people were purportedly doing via little more than a ‘box-ticking’ exercise – they can now undertake a choice of several other activities, all of which earn points towards the monthly target of 100.

Examples of those activities include:

  • five hours’ practice for driver’s licence, which will earn you 10 points
  • one hour in counselling, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, some other form of non-vocational personal development, work-preparation workshop, self-help group or career transition assistance (15 points)
  • gaining a work-related licence or qualification; attending a job fair (20 points)
  • attending a job interview or gaining a driver’s licence (25 points)
  • attending a ‘Skills for Education and Employment’, ‘Launch into Work’ or ‘Self-Employment Assistance’ program; spending more than 15 hours in an adult migrant English program (25 points per week).

High ‘scoring’ activities also include starting a job (50 points) and relocating for a job (100 points).

Read: Older Aussies falling through the cracks in ‘silent crisis’

Some of these activities are subject to limits. For example, while you might attend several job fairs in a 12-month period, you can only put such an activity forward to claim 20 points once each year.

Mr Burke has acknowledged that the system isn’t perfect but says he is working through changes to make the new program “the best system possible”. This has included an increase in the value of points for some activities, as well as reducing points targets for some participants based on personal circumstances.

The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, remains unconvinced however, saying in a statement, that “this is not the design of a humane welfare system – this is the design of a digital workhouse set up to brutalise people in desperate economic need and push them out of the system and onto the street.”

Further details of the new scheme are available on the government’s Workforce Australia website.

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