Large numbers of Newstart receipients lose payments as many not fulfilling obligations

The federal government has warned Australia’s job seekers claiming Centrelink’s Newstart Allowance to meet their obligations, as many are being penalised for not fulfilling requirements.

Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has released data showing a large number of people looking for work while on the payment have been suspended, for not meeting obligations including missing appointments.

The data showed nearly four in five of 744,884 participants of the Jobactive scheme, have had payments suspended at least once in the 12 months to the end of June.

One in 12 job seekers had accumulated 10 or more suspensions in the year, with one person’s payments suspended 52 times.

Payments can be suspended if people on the payment miss or arrive late to appointments or behave badly during meetings.

“The Coalition takes the mutual obligation of welfare recipients very seriously,” Senator Cash said in a statement.

“When participants have had their payments suspended up to 52 times in less than a year, they are not living up to what the taxpayer expects who are giving their hard-earned money to the Government.”

Jobactive, the government’s employment program, places requirements on job seekers involved in the scheme in order to receive Newstart payments.

Requirements include attending regular meetings with consultants at service providers, applying for 20 jobs a month and activities including volunteer work or Work for the Dole, to keep receiving payments.

It has been criticised by a Senate committee in February as being “not fit for purpose,” with participants in many cases missing paid employment to attend appointments with their Jobactive provider.

A March survey of people looking for work also found two thirds said Jobactive had not been very helpful in their situation.

It comes as calls continue for an increase of the Newstart payment from its current rate of $277 a week.

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