Feb 26, 2004

The unemployed missing out on assistance worth $223 million

THE UNEMPLOYED MISSING OUT ON ASSISTANCE WORTH $223 MILLION

MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 26 February 2004

While continuing uncertainty hangs over the financial viability of the Howard Government’s Job Network, a $223 million fund designed to improve the employment prospects of the unemployed has gone largely unused.

The Jobseeker Account, championed by the Government as a significant enhancement to its Job Network system, has been shunned by Job Network providers.

For the current financial year (2003/04) the Jobseeker Account has a budget of $223 million. However, to date a mere $31.4 million, or 14% of the money, has been used by providers.

Officials from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relation provided these figures to last week’s Senate Estimates.

The Jobseeker Account is a pool of funds intended for use by Job Network providers to purchase services and products that would help jobseekers find and maintain employment.

Providers have been warning for sometime that the overly bureaucratic nature of accessing the money in the Jobseeker Account was discouraging its use. Unfortunately the Government has failed to heed these warnings and as result money that could potentially help thousands of jobseekers off welfare and back into work sits unused in a government bank account.

Furthermore, at a time when many of our key industries are struggling to find skilled workers, only a third of the money that has been deducted from the Jobseeker Account has been spent on training courses for the unemployed.

It is about time the Minister for Employment Services, Mal Brough, acknowledge that the Job Network he designed is failing not only the unemployed but those dedicated providers trying to make the system work.