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Work for the dole is inefficient and unreasonable and should be dismantled: ACOSS

Welfare advocates are urging the Turnbull government to wind back the Coalition's unemployment centrepiece, the $1 billion work for the dole program, and switch funding back into wage-subisidies and genuine work experience.

In its budget 2016 submission, the Welfare Rights Centre said there is "compelling evidence" to support a rethink of how resources are applied to getting the long term unemployed off the dole queue.

Likewise, the Australian Council of Social Services has told the government that work for the dole is an "inefficient use of public resources".

Both groups pointed to figures that show just 19 per cent of people had found a job three months after participating in work for the dole. By comparison, 47 per cent of people involved in the previous Labor government's "wage connect" program remained in employment after finishing the 26-week scheme.

Wage connect pays employers $233 a week - the same rate as Newstart - for 26 weeks to employ someone who has been on benefits for two years or longer.

ACOSS said the main drawback with the work for benefits framework is that the work experience offered often bears no resemblance to the work opportunities in the jobs market.


Work for the dole jobs are typically low-supervision, menial tasks such as cleaning and labouring, but can include more bizarre activities. Fairfax Media reported in 2014 that one group in Adelaide had been assigned to making World War I dioramas for RSL clubs and another group was helping restore military aircraft.

"The main drawback of work for benefits schemes is that the work experience participants receive is usually well removed from paid employment opportunities. If it is regular productive employment, then the participants should be paid the legal wage," ACOSS said in a briefing document.

"To invest in this program on a large scale is therefore an inefficient use of public resources. Further, it is not reasonable to require people to undertake a program that will not improve their job prospects, especially where it involves working for less than the minimum wage."

It was revealed at a Senate estimates hearing last week that work for the dole had improved the probability that an unemployed person will find a job by just 2 percentage points.

A 90-page government-commissioned review found the probability of finding a job increased from an already low base of 14 per cent to 16 per cent.

Work for the Dole was expanded last year to put more requirements on the unemployed in regional areas, something which ACOSS said targets mostly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

All adults between 18 and 49 who are receiving income support are required to work for the dole for at least 25 hours a week.

"This reduces the flexibility available to job service providers to assist people with other support, including targeted training and work experience linked to real employment outcomes. Funds currently allocated to Work for the Dole in remote communities should be allocated to a flexible and locally driven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community development employment program which accommodates the diverse training and job search needs of individual job seekers and recognises differences between communities," ACOSS said.

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