Only one in 10 welfare recipients believe their mandatory Centrelink activities are actually helping them find paid work, new Anglicare research shows. The charity surveyed 618 Centrelink users to document their experiences of social security in Australia, with the findings revealing a lack of faith in the current system.
Centrelink mutual obligations – such as participating in appointments with an employment service provider and agreeing to a job plan – have again become mandatory for welfare recipients after being paused for a while amid COVID restrictions.
Almost four in five (79 per cent) survey respondents said their Centrelink activities felt pointless, with only 11 per cent agreeing that these activities were helping them find paid work.
Researchers said the findings confirmed what the evidence had been telling them for years – that the system was not helping those who need it.
“Instead of supporting those who it is supposed to help, it is subjecting them to pointless tasks that do not help them find work,” the report said.
“In some cases, the system makes it harder for people to look for work, and in others, it gets in the way of other activities that they find meaningful. And failure to meet these requirements can result in income support payment suspensions or penalties.
“At its worst, it punishes people for minor errors – or for no reason at all.”
Anti-poverty advocates have long called for the mutual obligation system to be abandoned, arguing a more supportive model that meets people’s needs and focuses on supporting people rather than punishing them was needed.
The report said activity requirements for welfare recipients were “among the strictest and most punitive in the world”.
“With so few jobs available or attainable for people with barriers to employment, mutual obligation requirements are pointless and demoralising for job seekers,” the report said.
“People are being forced to submit applications for jobs they will never get, or participate in training that will do little to improve their job prospects.”
Anglicare’s Jobs Availability Snapshot released last month found that there were 27 jobseekers across Australia competing for each entry-level job.
The charity’s executive director Kasy Chambers said the welfare system needed to be fixed urgently, so jobseekers were no longer forced into pointless busywork but rather were helped to break into the competitive job market.
“We need to overhaul the system. People are forced to run a gauntlet of interviews, reporting, and administration that isn’t leading to work,” Chambers said.
“It’s time to stop punishing people for being out of work, and start giving them the support they need.”