Australians working together - helping people to move forward
Helping People to Find Jobs
A Fair Go for Mature Age Workers
- A2. Voluntary participation interviews
- A3. Participation planning for widow allowees
- A4. Close off mature age and partner allowance
- A5. Flexible participation requirements for mature age newstart recipients
- A6. More assistance
A Better Deal for People with Disabilities
- A7. Better assessment
- A8. Better access to employment assistance and quality assurance of employment assistance
Getting People the Right Help
Help to Participate
Promoting Self Reliance for Indigenous People
- A14. Improvements to service delivery in remote indigenous communities
- A15. Community participation agreements and capacity building
- A16. Helping parents return to work
- A17. More child care places
- A18. Community and business engagement
- A19. Planning for the future
A1. Mutual obligation requirements
There will be standardised Mutual Obligation requirements for job seekers aged up to 49 years receiving Newstart Allowance, complemented by additional assistance available to unemployed people.
From 1 July 2002 all job seekers aged up to 49 will be required to undertake Job Search Training after three months' unemployment. After six month's unemployment and at least annually thereafter, job seekers aged 18 to 49 will be required to undertake one of the following:
- community work (200 hours for 18-20 year-olds, 240 hours for 21-39 year-olds and 150 hours for 40-49 year-olds);
- 130 hours of part-time paid work;
- 100 hours of study; or
- an activity from the Mutual Obligation menu over 26 weeks.
Work for the Dole will be the default for job seekers aged to 39 should they fail to choose an activity themselves. The default for 40-49 year-olds will be referral to a Community Work Coordinator.
Mature age people sometimes find it hard to get a job in today's changing labour market. They should not be left without the opportunity to re-skill or take part in their community.
The Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business is undertaking complementary initiatives.
Total Government Funding: $28.1 million over four years
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A2. Voluntary participation interviews
People of working age receiving Mature Age, Widow and Partner Allowance will be invited to attend a voluntary interview to help them plan for their future and have the assistance available to them explained. Centrelink Personal Advisers will help identify their needs and the obstacles they may face in achieving them, and where appropriate, refer them to programs and services that will assist them.
Mature age people will be able to access new places being funded over four years through the Australians Working Together package, including Literacy and Numeracy Training, rehabilitation, disability services, and education and training. They will also have access to financial information and counselling to assist in planning for their retirement.
Mature age people often find it hard to get a job in a changing labour market. They should not be left without the opportunity to continue working or to upgrade their skills and experience to help them find work.
Total Government Funding: $15.1 million over four years
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A3. Participation planning for widow allowees
New Widow Allowees will be asked to attend an annual interview with a Centrelink Personal Adviser. The first interview will be required twelve months after payment begins. The interview will help them plan the best way to get back to work and establish what assistance is available to them. People will be encouraged to undertake activities, on a voluntary basis that will give them the opportunity to upgrade their skills and experience.
Those who choose to undertake an activity will be given help to address obstacles and, where appropriate, will be referred to programs and services such as literacy and numeracy training, rehabilitation, disability services, education, training, financial information and counselling. Additional places will be made available in these programs and services.
Mature age people sometimes find it hard to get a job in today's changing labour market. They should not be left without the opportunity to upgrade their skills and experience to help them find a job.
This part of the measure builds on the voluntary participation measure. The voluntary participation measure will provide greater opportunities for current Widow, Partner and Mature Age Allowance recipients, whereas this measure will help new claimants for Widow Allowance.
Total Government Funding: $3.6 million over four years
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A4. Close off mature age and partner allowance
1 July 2003
From 1 July 2003 there will be no new entrants to Mature Age Allowance or Partner Allowance and many people will get Newstart Allowance instead. This will give them access to more services and support. People already receiving Mature Age Allowance and Partner Allowance will not be affected.
Customers facing similar obstacles to gaining employment will have equal access to services and programs to maximise their opportunities and capabilities. This change sends consistent messages to the community, employers, allowees and service providers about the importance of continuing working or upgrading skills and experience in the years leading up to age pension age.
Many people of working age people over 50 years on income support are already doing, or are willing to be involved in, a broad range of activities. However, those that do not participate, or see themselves as retired on income support between the ages of 50 and 65 face the greatest risk of long-term unemployment, and are at a higher risk of poverty and ill-health in old age.
Total Government Funding: $2.2 million over four years
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A5. Flexible participation requirements for mature age newstart recipients
1 July 2003
A more flexible system of requirements will be introduced for Newstart Allowance recipients who are 50 years of age up to Age Pension age. All new and current allowees in this age group will be required to develop a plan specifying the activities they will undertake to meet their requirements.
The focus will be on moving people towards working or upgrading their skills and experience to find work. However, the range of activities people will be able to undertake will recognise that individual circumstances, skills, recent workforce experience and aspirations of mature age people vary considerably. Activities such as caring and voluntary work will be recognised within the new requirements.
People will also be given help to identify obstacles they may face in finding work and where appropriate, will be referred to programs and services that will assist them. There will be additional places in programs and services such as Literacy and Numeracy Training, rehabilitation, disability services, education, training, financial information and counselling.
Mature age people often find it hard to get a job in today's labour market. They often have different characteristics and face different barriers to younger unemployed people and even within the mature age group there is considerable variation in their circumstances.
With the closing of Mature Age Allowance and Partner Allowance, which this part of the measure complements, it is important to have in place a framework that is flexible and sensitive to individual circumstances.
Total Government Funding: $81.6 million over four years
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A6. More assistance
As part of a package of measures to assist mature age workers, funding will be provided for additional places in disability employment assistance services and rehabilitation. Funding will also be provided for additional places in career counselling, literacy and numeracy training and vocational education and training (which are run through the Education, Training and Youth Affairs portfolio).
This measure will provide additional places to meet the expected demand from mature age workers who want to continue working, upgrade their skills and need help to find work.
Total Government Funding: $43.9 million over four years
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A7. Better assessment
September 2002 – New Assessment Process
People claiming or receiving Disability Support Pension, Newstart or Youth Allowance while sick or recovering from injury, will gain from improved assessment of their ability to work. There will be more help for people with disabilities and people with temporary incapacities to get a job. The focus of the changes is on assessing what people can do rather than what they cannot do, and on encouraging people to be active and to get involved.
Improvements to the assessment process include Centrelink using external expertise to assess people's capacity to work, providing training on Disability Support Pension assessments to treating doctors and Centrelink staff, and redesigning the treating doctor's report and medical certificates. Treating doctors will be asked to provide information about a Disability Support Pension claimant's medical condition, but will no longer be required to comment on the person's ability to work.
The assessment will focus strongly on capacity and encourage people to get involved to the best of their ability by emphasising the flexibility of requirements. People will be directed to assistance suited to their capacity that desirably will help prepare them for work.
Early intervention - including encouraging continued activity for people who suffer illness or injury can help slow or reverse any decline in a person's condition. The improvement to Centrelink's assessment of people's capacity to work will help keep more people active.
The Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs is undertaking a complementary initiative "Better Access to Education and Training" for People with Disabilities".
Total Government Funding: $64.6 million over four years
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A8. Better access to employment assistance and quality assurance of employment assistance
July 2001 – Expansion of Assessment and Contestability Trial
January 2002 – Better quality assurance of employment assistance services for people with disabilities.
September 2002 – 7,000 additional employment assistance places for job seekers with disabilities
7,000 new disability employment assistance places will be funded over four years to provide opportunities in business services and open employment for rural and remote locations and areas of high demand. This is in addition to the previously planned growth of 5,000 places.
There will also be 500 extra places in the Assessment and Contestability Trial to trial a better way for people to access the right employment services.
An internationally accredited system will be introduced to make sure disability employment assistance services deliver quality outcomes.
People with disabilities want the chance to have a go - with more support and advice and more employment places, more people with disabilities will get that chance.
People with disabilities need better access to appropriate employment assistance. The Assessment and Contestability Trial is looking at the needs and abilities of people with disabilities.
Total Government Funding: $75.5 million over four years
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A9. The personal support program
The Personal Support Programme will replace and improve upon the current Community Support Programme from 1 July 2002. The Personal Support Programme will assist people with severe or multiple non-vocational obstacles to employment such as homelessness, drug and alcohol problems, domestic violence or mental illness. These are people who, because of their personal circumstances, are generally unable to benefit from the employment assistance currently available.
The Personal Support Programme will have broader objectives, not only focusing on improving their capacity to find work, but also to help stabilise their lives and enable them to become involved and contribute to the community over time.
A network of service providers will be contracted to provide support and activities to participants in the program. As at July 2000, there were approximately 80 organisations providing services from over 300 sites nationally for 15,000 Community Support Programme participants. This will be expanded in the new program.
In comparison to the current Community Support Programme, the Personal Support Programme will:
- assist more people (an estimated 45,000 a year by 2004-05);
- provide increased levels of funding for each individual (up to $3,250 for each participant);
- support participants to achieve appropriate outcomes that match their abilities, capacity and circumstances (including social outcomes);
- be compulsory for some participants; and
- provide incentives that encourage service providers to assist participants to meet their potential.
The program will help people stabilise their lives. This will enable them to become involved and contribute to the community over time and as they can, take up opportunities offered by mainstream employment services, particularly Intensive Assistance.
As part of the overall funding, money will be available for each participant enabling providers to purchase extra services that can't be provided in-house or are not freely available from State, Commonwealth or community providers.
A key feature of the Personal Support Programme is an increased focus on promoting and enabling both community and workforce engagement. Service providers will receive an outcome payment when participants achieve a defined outcome based on their circumstances, obstacles and capacity.
Total Government Funding: $62.0 million over four years, on top of existing funding being transferred from the Community Support Programme.
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A10. Better assessments
1 September 2002
This initiative will help to improve opportunities for indigenous customers, as well as Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance customers who are not required to meet activity test requirements because of personal obstacles and prison release customers.
There will be an intensive assessment after their income support claim interview with a Centrelink Personal Adviser to identify any obstacles to community and workforce engagement. An individualised plan to address obstacles early will be developed and agreed with the customer. The assessment and implementation of individual plans will draw upon internal Centrelink specialist services and, where appropriate, external community organisations. The plan will be monitored by their Centrelink Personal Adviser to maximise outcomes.
People will receive access to support services such as child care, health, domestic violence support, financial and/or housing assistance and relationship counselling.
Current assessment practices do not provide the level of intervention proposed by this initiative. The most vulnerable client groups need to be provided with better assessment services to help promote active participation.
These clients are among those most likely to be penalised for doing the wrong thing. Individualised assessments for these clients will lead to a better understanding of their needs and activity requirements (only applying for some).
Total Government Funding: $31.6 million over four years
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A11. Improved information technology
June 2001 – information scoping study
September 2002 - ongoing phased implementation
From September 2002, subject to scoping study outcomes being in 2001, the Government will look at ways to improve information technology among providers of services to people on income support payments, which will improve the cost effectiveness of services.
The McClure Report into Welfare Reform emphasised that the welfare system can deliver better results for individuals if government agencies and service providers are better integrated and coordinated. The information scoping study will review existing information systems and their effectiveness in providing coordinated and relevant information. Subject to the study's outcomes, the Government will invest in developing information technology to contribute to improved cost effectiveness of services.
Total Government Funding: $50 million over four years
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A12. Working credit
20 September 2002
The Working Credit will encourage workforce-age people on income support to take up full-time, substantial part-time or irregular casual work by allowing them to keep more of their income support payment while working.
The measure will improve the way the income tests are applied to earnings from work. The Working Credit will make irregular part-time or casual work more attractive. When a person gets some work, their earnings will be offset against the Working Credit they have built up. This means less income will be counted under the income test, and the person will keep more of the payment than under the current rules.
- People who have no income in a fortnight will automatically build up their Working Credit by $48 in that fortnight.
- If they earn $24 in a fortnight their Working Credit balance will increase by $24.
- For each fortnight their income is less than $48, people will continue to build up their credit to a maximum of $1,000.
- When they subsequently report income to Centrelink, this will first be counted against their income test free area, then their Working Credit balance, and then against the income test taper rates (40%, 50% or 70% depending on their payment and level of earnings).
Rules will be changed to reduce disincentives to take short term full-time work by making it easier for people to get back onto their income support payment if they lose their job within 12 weeks.
The income test rules will be simpler for workforce-age pensioners and people who receive Parenting Payment, making it easier for them to understand how their payments are affected and when they need to tell Centrelink about changes in their earnings. There will be clear, easy-to-understand rules based on actual fortnightly income.
This measure will help many customers take the first step towards finding work by providing greater rewards for casual and part time work. Such work may provide the person with the experience they need to get more permanent or full time work.
By making simpler income test rules for customers, it will be easier to for them to get income support payments if a job finishes.
Total Government Funding: $500.3 million over four years
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A13. Literacy and numeracy training supplement
20 September 2002
People undertaking literacy and/or numeracy training (funded by the Department of Education Training and Youth Affairs) and receiving Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, Mature Age Allowance, Widow Allowance, Partner Allowance or Disability Support Pension will be paid a $20.80 supplement every fortnight while they are undertaking training.
Centrelink will pay the Supplement automatically with their normal income support payment after they begin relevant training.
The Government recognises that having poor literacy and/or numeracy skills makes it difficult to get a job. This training is necessary to help people back into the workforce and help with day-to-day living skills.
The Literacy and Numeracy Supplement is an important part of the Government's commitment to supporting people while they are engaged in activities which can improve their employment prospects. The McClure report identified the importance of incentives for people on payments.
People on income support are likely to need extra financial assistance to help with the incidental costs of attending literacy and numeracy training. This measure will encourage and support people while they undertake literacy and numeracy training.
The Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business has a complementary initiative "Training Credits for Work for the Dole and Community Work".
Total Government Funding: $20.4 million over four years
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A14. Improvements to service delivery in remote indigenous communities
From September 2002
Centrelink will establish up to 12 remote area servicing centres, employing local staff, to add to its current agency arrangements. These centres will service and support the communities they are located in, and surrounding communities. The centres will improve access to Centrelink services, assist communities to improve income management and work with them to implement the new Community Participation Agreements.
Better access to Centrelink would help people living in remote communities to take advantage of assistance, services and opportunities available with their income support payments.
The current range of Centrelink services to remote communities needs to be expanded to provide a more comprehensive service. For example, Community Agents help customers to complete forms and give information, but cannot determine payment eligibility. Other remote communities are not funded to provide Community Agents.
Centrelink staff (for example, Remote Visiting Teams) currently visit remote communities periodically (every 2-3 months or less during the wet season).
Further complementary initiatives ("Support for CDEP Participants to get a job", "Community Participation Agreements and Capacity Building" and "Prevention and Early Intervention Strategies") are being undertaken by the Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Commission.
Total Government Funding: $9.2 million over four years
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A15. Community participation agreements and capacity building
From July 2001
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission will work with about 100 remote communities to develop Community Participation Agreements. These agreements will involve the community in identifying practical ways people can contribute to their families and communities in return for their income support. This will mean communities will be able to plan for better service delivery at the local level.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission will assist communities to develop and manage the Communities Participation Agreements and support activities such as leadership, strengthening culture and community governance.
When the agreements are in place, people will be able to choose an activity of value to their community in return for their income support.
There are few opportunities in some remote indigenous communities for people on income support to meet activity test requirements. In others, people have been exempt from activity testing. The Government wants all Australians to be active and involved in their communities, to be using their skills and potential and to be looking for work when they can.
Total Government Funding: $32.2 million over four years
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A16. Helping parents return to work
July 2002 – New Transition to Work Programme
September 2002 - Participation Pack, available at new claim interviews and for those having interviews with Centrelink Personal Advisers
September 2002 – Additional places in disability employment services and voluntary work opportunities
September 2002 – Annual interviews for Parenting Payment recipients with youngest child aged 12-15
July 2003 – Annual interviews for Parenting Payment recipients whose youngest child is aged 6-11 and part time activity requirements for Parenting Payment recipients with youngest child aged 13-15
The Government will provide more intensive support and assistance for people who receive Parenting Payment to help them prepare to return to work, and to help them access services to acquire or improve their work skills. In the Family and Community Services portfolio, this includes improved services through Centrelink, funding for extra disability employment places and voluntary work opportunities. There is also complementary funding in the Education, Training and Youth Affairs and the Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business portfolios for extra program assistance for parents.
People on Parenting Payment whose youngest child is at least six years of age will be required to attend annual interviews with a Centrelink Personal Adviser. They will be provided with information about options for services such as training, employment support services and child care. People who are receiving Parenting Payment with a youngest child aged between 13 and 15 years, will be required to undertake an activity such as job search, education, training or community work for around six hours a week to help them prepare to return to work. Parents will be reminded of their requirements after six weeks and their Centrelink Personal Adviser will review activities each three months. Each will be encouraged to develop a Participation Plan.
Centrelink will provide guidance and support to people who are not yet ready to look for a job or go back to work. The new Transition to Work program will build on the current Return to Work program and the pre-vocational training component of the Jobs, Education and Training (JET) program. Parents who get casual or substantial part-time work will benefit from the Working Credit, which means they will keep more of the money they earn.
People who apply for Parenting Payment will be provided with information about the advantages of work and the assistance available to help them return to work. Much of this information will be contained within a Participation Pack, which will also include information about financial incentives and local support services.
The Pack will reinforce the information and messages given at the new claim and planning interviews and consolidate a range of information about future options. It will be a self-help resource.
Parents who have been out of the workforce for a long period of time while they are caring for their children may need greater assistance to help them get back into paid work. Sometimes their skills and confidence have been eroded over time, making their return to paid work more difficult.
Half the people who are on Parenting Payment when their youngest child turns 16 years are still on income support five years later. This situation increases the risk of their children also becoming dependent on income support.
Some parents also find it difficult to adjust to the full-time activity test requirements they face when their youngest child turns 16 years and they go off Parenting Payment and onto Newstart Allowance.
Total Government Funding: $240.1 million over four years
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A17. More child care places
1 July 2001 for additional outside school hours care places.
September 2002 for JET child care fee assistance.
The measure will mean more working families can find suitable outside school hours care. Outside school hours care will be provided for 5,300 more children each year.
Establishment grants will be provided to new, outside school hour care services and Child Care Benefit will be available for eligible parents. The new places will be targeted to areas of highest need, in particular, rural and regional areas.
In addition, by simplifying procedures for accessing Jobs, Education and Training (JET) child care special fee assistance, a wider range of families will receive much-needed assistance. More parents will get help to meet the 'gap' fee for child care.
More affordable child care will help parents to return to paid work.
Demand for places that provide care outside of school hours for primary school children has continued to grow over recent years and current funding has been fully allocated.
By simplifying the process for JET clients it is estimated that an additional 7000 parents with children will receive additional child care fee assistance (on top of Child Care Benefit) to enable them to access employment, training and educational opportunities.
Total Government Funding: $16.2 million over four years
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A18. Community and business engagement
The Prime Minister's Community Business Partnership will encourage companies and business to identify and generate opportunities for people with disabilities, mature age people, Indigenous Australians and parents returning to work.
The Prime Minister's Community Business Partnership will work with corporations, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other business organisations.
Locally, community business networks involving small and medium enterprises will be encouraged to build awareness and opportunities.
Funding is also available for the Partnership to:
- establish an Australian Employer Forum for people with disabilities;
- take forward a national framework of triple bottom line reporting; and
- develop an online clearinghouse for ideas, case studies and information.
In addition, funding will be available for communication and consultation with the community on implementation of the Australians Working Together package.
The skills and potential of some Australians, including parents, mature age people, indigenous people and people with disabilities are sometimes overlooked. Governments, businesses and communities have a shared responsibility to ensure that all Australians have opportunities available to help them meet their potential, and individuals have a responsibility to take up those opportunities when they can.
Since it was established in November 1999, the Prime Minister's Community Business Partnership has raised awareness of the benefits to business of working with the community and helping people to move forward. The Government will build on this approach by asking the partnership to assist at national and local levels.
Total Government Funding: $22 million over four years
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A19. Planning for the future
The Government will support a comprehensive evaluation of the Australians Working Together package, including outcomes from new assessment processes and expanded services, the impact of extending participation requirements, and the effect of changed financial incentives.
In addition, experimental pilot studies will be conducted collect information that can be used in developing ongoing policy. The pilots will examine better ways to encourage the community and workforce to work together.
This measure will complement existing departmental research and evaluation funds, and will be undertaken by a number of portfolios including: Family and Community Services; Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business; Education, Training and Youth Affairs; and the Finance and Administration portfolio.
The McClure Report emphasised the need for development work to be based on the findings of pilots and research. Findings from a range of current and recent FaCS pilots contributed significantly to the development of the Australians Working Together measures in this budget.
Total Government Funding: $5.0 million over four years