Youth affected by Newstart changes

Photo by Marina Neil

Photo by Marina Neil

THE Federal Government has proposed tough new measures for Australia's unemployed.

On Monday last week, the federal government unveiled a $5.1 billion jobs placement program and an expansion of the Work for the Dole scheme. The draft has gone out and comment is sought by August 25.

Under the changes, individuals who apply for Newstart could have to apply for 40 jobs a month and people under 30 would be forced to do 25 hours of community work.

People under 25 will no longer qualify for Newstart ($255 a week) and will instead go on Youth Allowance benefits ($207). Job seekers could also have to wait up to six months from application to receive benefits.

The 2011 census showed that unemployment in the Shellharbour region was 6.7 per cent, which is higher than the national 5.6 and state average 5.9.

Secretary of the South Coast Labour Council Arthur Rorris said the move by the Abbott government would set people up for failure and was a "callous act of cruelty".

Mr Rorris said businesses would be inundated by applications from job seekers who were trying to comply with requirements.

"They are creating the mother of all red tapes, whereby employers will receive hundreds and hundreds of applications from job seekers who are required to put them in," Mr Rorris said.

"How does a small business owner discern which ones are actually the appropriate or relevant candidate, without going through the whole lot?

"What will happen in small businesses will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid the process because they won't get the best candidate.

"The problem with this approach is these people will spend and waste time completing 40 applications, that they can't compete for, without focusing on building the criteria they need for employment," he said.

"It is hard to come to any conclusion other than that the real motivation behind Tony Abbott's policy is to appear tough and make it impossible for people, who will eventually give up and opt out of the labour market, which will in turn bring down unemployment figures."

Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans said the increased Work for the Dole needed to consider how it will assist people, particularly the youth, into sustainable employment.

"Many of the people we work with are already applying for dozens of jobs every week and competing against hundreds of other applicants with very little hope," she said.

"The changes to welfare for under 30s proposed in the federal budget could leave many young Australians dangerously exposed. If a young person can't afford a roof over their head it will be very hard for them to meet their job search requirements and get into the workforce.

"We need to be investing in the next generation at this crucial point in their lives by giving them the best possible support to ensure they can connect with training and employment opportunities, rather than forcing them to crisis point."

CEO of Southern Youth and Family Services Narelle Clay said the reductions to the Newstart income could possibly increase youth homelessness.

"We are most concerned about the possible reduction in income for people between 21 and 30 or penalising people for a six-month period," she said.

"I want to know how they are going to pay their rent. If it is reduced there could be a huge consequence that these people can't afford living expenses and render them homeless, having the opposite effect."

Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis said she would present the minister with considerations for regional areas.

"Regional areas are usually in a conflicted situation because there is not as many work opportunities as there are in urban areas. Some backbench Coalition members don't think there should be a one-size-fits-all policy and there needs to be regional consideration."

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