THE peak body representing the nation's job
agencies has warned the Gillard government that a new payment
regime introduced to stamp out rorting of the welfare-to-work
scheme will hurt agencies that help the most vulnerable unemployed
people and could put the scheme at risk.
National Employment Services Association chief executive Sally
Sinclair, which represents both profit and non-profit providers,
said while her agencies supported a new fee structure to control
rorting, they were concerned there would be a net fee cut to job
agencies because of the change.
The Gillard government was forced to act after it was found that
the welfare-to-work scheme, now called Job Services Australia, had
rewarded with higher fees agencies that "brokered", or found, jobs
for Centrelink recipients. This led many organisations to lodge
false claims to get more money. As a result, the higher fee for
such brokerages will now be eliminated from July 1.
But Ms Sinclair, who is usually close to the government, said
there would be a negative financial impact for some organisations.
She said these agencies were the ones that had been genuinely
getting the higher fees for doing the extra work in getting
disadvantaged people jobs. Now they will be getting a lower fee for
this labour-intensive work.
"We are advised by our members that this change will have a
measurable financial impact on some organisations, and particularly
those such as specialist providers whose caseloads include large
proportions of highly disadvantaged jobseekers such as people with
a disability, indigenous, culturally and linguistically diverse,
and young people," Ms Sinclair told The Australian.
"Employment services organisations typically adopt an advocacy
approach to brokering placements for disadvantaged jobseekers as it
is a proven service-delivery strategy for jobseekers who are less
competitive in the labour market. The advocacy job-brokerage
strategy enables engagement of employers in workplace development
and support options and often strengthens the sustainability of job
"However, delivery of this strategy requires appropriate
resourcing to undertake the functions and some providers are of the
view that the proposed change to the funding level will adversely
impact on services and in some cases increase financial
While NESA supported the decision to remove the differential
payments, which NESA has been on record as saying are a source of
unnecessary complexity in the system, it does not support a
reduction in investment in services to jobseekers.
But Employment Participation Minister Kate Ellis could not
guarantee that the new regime would not lead to an overall cut in
the money going to job agencies in the May budget.
This article was published in The Australian on the 9th
April 2012. Journalist: Patricia Karvelas
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