Our Plan

Issue 06

Welfare to Work

Australians believe in a fair go. A strong welfare safety net is part of our national ethos. Equally, Australians believe in having a go.

Welfare spending represents more than a third of the budget — more than health, education and defence combined.

The right to welfare comes with responsibilities. Payments should not keep going to those gaming the system. They should not be spent on drugs. And welfare shouldn’t entrench intergenerational dependency.

The Coalition Government believes the best form of welfare is a job.

That’s why we are delivering greater support — and expectations — for job seekers.

WORK FOR THE DOLE

Work for the Dole means those who receive benefits give something back to the community that supports them.

It means unemployed people gain skills and experience, along with pride and self-esteem.

It also means charities, not-for-profits and other community groups get extra help to do valuable community work.

Labor let Work for the Dole wither. By 2009-10, just 13,000 job seekers participated in Work for the Dole activities, down from 75,000 in the final year of the Howard Government.

We’ve reinvigorated it. Last year, 105,000 Australians participated in Work for the Dole.

74% of those who participate in Work for the Dole reported that it had increased their desire to find a job and 30% of those who participated were in a job three months later.

All of them will benefit from the pride and self-esteem of knowing they are contributing to a community that won’t give up on them.

TACKLING DRUG DEPENDENCY

If someone is on drugs and the dole, we want to get them off both.

For those with a drug and alcohol problem, we’re changing the rules.

Under our plan, those on welfare affected by drugs and alcohol will now be required to undertake available treatment.

If it is refused, we will no longer accept drug and alcohol use as a legitimate excuse for missing appointments or activities.

DRUG TESTING

From 2018, we are also seeking to trial random drug tests for 5,000 new recipients of Newstart and Youth Allowance in three locations - Canterbury Bankstown (NSW), Logan (QLD) and Mandurah (WA).

CASHLESS WELFARE CARDS

The Coalition Government is trialling cashless welfare cards, which work like regular bank cards, except they cannot be used for gambling or alcohol products, or to withdraw cash.

An independent evaluation of the first two trial sites – Ceduna (SA) and Kununurra and Wyndham (East Kimberly region, WA) – have shown cashless welfare cards have been successful in reducing binge drinking, gambling and illegal drug use.

In 2018, two further sites will be trialled – the Goldfields region of WA and the Hinkler electorate (based around Bundaberg and Harvey Bay) in Queensland.

FRAUD CRACKDOWN

Taxpayers have saved $1.4 billion during the last 18 months, from a Coalition Government crackdown on welfare fraud and non-compliance.

We have increased checks through data matching to over 600,000 every year - half a million more than when Labor were in government (2012-13).

In one extreme case, a criminal was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to three years in prison, after fleecing the system of more than $160,000, using an alias to illegally claim the disability support pension.

BETTER COMPLIANCE

The majority of job-seekers do the right thing by actively looking for work.

However, we have identified about 100,000 people who repeatedly fail to meet their obligations, with about 40,000 appearing to game the system.

They avoid penalties because Labor’s legislation allows penalties to be easily waived.

We’re introducing a clear and fair system of compliance. In the same way drivers lose demerit points for driving offences, job seekers will lose one point if they fail to turn up to an appointment, interview or mutual obligation activity, like Work for the Dole.

If an individual receives four demerit points in six months, there will be a rigorous assessment, followed by penalties under a “three strikes” system — one week’s payment for a first strike, a fortnightly payment for a second strike and cancellation of payments for four weeks for a third strike.

We are also:

  • Introducing a stronger relationship verification process for single parents, to ensure people are not getting higher payments by claiming to be single when they’re not.
  • Ensuring Tax File Numbers are collected before income support payments are approved in order to streamline administration and increase personal responsibility.

NEW MUTUAL OBLIGATION RULES

We are implementing consistent mutual obligation requirements to ensure more people prepare for, search for and accept suitable employment.

This will mean, for example, job seekers aged 30-49 (approx. 270,000) will have activity requirements increased from 30 hours to 50 hours per fortnight.

HELPING PARENTS GET OFF WELFARE

A new program called ParentsNext is helping disadvantaged parents break the cycle of dependency.

80 percent of young mothers on welfare had a parent or guardian also on welfare. Without extra help, there is a high chance their children will also grow up without a parent working.

We are now stepping in early with support and training for parents when children are young, so they have the skills and confidence to work when their children go to school.

ParentsNext has been successfully piloted in ten locations and the scheme will now be compulsory for about 68,000 people on parenting payments.

A SIMPLER SYSTEM

From March 2020, the Government will introduce a new, single JobSeeker Payment, which will replace or consolidate seven existing payments (Newstart Allowance; Sickness Allowance; Wife Pension; Partner Allowance; Bereavement Allowance; Widow B Pension; and Widow Allowance).

Information current as at March 2018