Chapter 9 - Gateway to services

  1. Gateway to services

This chapter examines the features of an effective gateway service. The first steps of a jobseeker’s engagement with the system will be initial contact and onboarding, assessment(s) to determine the appropriate employment service, and then referral or registration with a service provider (including online services). The gateway service also includes processes related to reassessment, transfers between services and exits from services thereby ensuring that jobseekers continue to receive appropriate support when their circumstances change. It is important to get these processes right in order to identify a jobseeker’s needs and capacity and determine the most appropriate services that align to their current pathway to employment at any point in time—in order to have both an effective and cost-efficient service model.

As outlined in earlier chapters, the gateway service would be a function of Employment Services Australia (ESA). Compelling evidence was received about the need for gateway services to be undertaken by the public sector, particularly assessment and referral processes. The design features proposed seek to address issues that were identified across the employment services system, including not only Workforce Australia but also ParentsNext. The initial referral process is also a key touchpoint between all programs in Australia’s employment services system—such as Disability Employment Services (DES) and Community Development Program (CDP). The Committee has limited itself to consideration of gateway services for DES and CDP as they relate to interaction with Workforce Australia, however, encourages further consideration on ways to streamline processes and ensure consistency across services as part of rebuilding a Commonwealth Employment Services System.

Changes need to be made to ensure that a jobseeker’s initial engagement with government is no longer impersonal and dehumanising. Applying for income support is a confronting experience as it means that a person has no other source of income and little or no liquid assets. In addition, most individuals are almost certainly anxious and concerned about being able to find a job, if not shocked at the loss of prior employment. Applying for government support does not mean that a person lacks motivation to find a job, rather that they lack the financial resources needed while finding a job. Nevertheless, the myth of the ‘dole bludger’ appears to have infected almost every part of the income support and employment services ecosystem, including messages sent from Centrelink. The initial contact and onboarding process must take into account findings from the Robodebt Royal Commission and avoid any conduct or language that reinforces shame associated with accessing income or employment support.

During the registration and onboarding process, people seeking income support frequently do not make the distinction between elements related to the income support application and those that relate to the employment services system. As a result, it is no surprise that people are often reluctant to disclose personal information or barriers to employment in their initial assessment and seek to rush through decisions in order to connect with online or provider-led services in order to start receiving income support. As far as it is possible, the model for ESA’s assessment framework needs to provide clear delineation between income support and employment support.

Issues with the assessment and referral processes are also exacerbated by the fact that the goal seems to be to move jobseekers into online services or match them with a provider immediately. There is no time allowed during interviews to build the trust required to disclose barriers or options for jobseekers to express even basic aspiration or goals. Individuals also have limited scope to learn about the services that may be available or the performance of providers in order to make an informed choice about what provider or support services may be best for them. The new model for ESA gateway services should ensure that all individuals, whether on income support or not, have access to information on the role and function of employment services, including by ensuring consistent information on government websites and enabling jobseekers to contact relevant officers to obtain advice. Jobseeker agency over the choice of provider or service has been demonstrated to get better engagement and results.

The reformed assessment framework proposed would keep the Job Seeker Snapshot (JSS), subject to trials of possible amendments. The evidence supports use of the JSS as a quick way of identifying those who are most likely to achieve an outcome through digital-hybrid services, but changes will be needed so that people are only referred to digital-hybrid services where there is very high confidence this is appropriate.

A new more in-depth Assessment Service would be added as part of the assessment framework. The more time-intensive assessment process would see the creation of an initial Participation and Jobs Plan that maps a person’s current pathway to employment and identifies a suitable mix of support services. It is proposed that the Assessment Service by ESA would include greater use of face-to-face or video interviews, and that asufficient number of interviews would be allowed to properly understand a person’s aspirations and barriers. The Committee envisages that investment in the assessment process would help to identify those individuals who should be referred to services that build social capabilities or address non-vocational barriers before transferring to services that seek to build employability or help with job search. The experiences of the aged care sector highlights the broader benefits and potential cost savings that come from greater disclosure of barriers before connection with the right services.

Finally, issues related to people who are incapable of work—either permanently or temporarily—were also examined. It is apparent that there are people receiving Jobseeker who should be receiving the Disability Support Pension (DSP) but are unable to navigate the assessment process, or who have disability, chronic illness and chaotic lives not properly recognised in the assessment process. Minor adjustments are proposed to address this issue. At any point in time, there will also be those on Jobseeker who are in fact sick and exempted from participation due to temporary incapacity. There would be merit in reintroducing Sickness Allowance, and extending eligibility for that allowance to those experiencing sustained incapacity who are not eligible for the DSP. Measure must also be implemented to address any challenges jobseekers face in accessing the medical and other evidence needed as part of the application for DSP or temporary exemptions.

Initial contact and onboarding

9.1Access to income support requires that a person register with Centrelink. As part of this process, the person will usually complete a Job Seeker Snapshot (JSS) to assess program eligibility and have their Participation Interview—usually conducted over the phone—with Centrelink.[1]

9.2It is the responsibility of the claimant to book their Participation Interview if lodging their income support claim online. They will then receive a call from a private number at the scheduled time.[2] The interview will assess eligibility for income support and relative levels of disadvantage and supports referral to other services.[3]

9.3The Participation Interview also allows Centrelink to determine whether the individual is subject to RapidConnect. RapidConnect is established under the social security law and provides that until a jobseeker attends an initial interview with a provider or for online participants agrees to their Job Plan, they will not receive income support.[4]This can create an inherent inequity in that online jobseekers can sign their Job Plan straightaway and start to access their income support, whereas, those referred to a provider, need to be booked into a provider appointment, attend appointment and then sign their Job Plan, that can delay their access income support.

9.4Stakeholders raised issues with the process of registration for income support. Key challenges included obtaining useful information from websites, long wait times to speak to Centrelink officers, and a lack of useful advice.[5] Accessing the employment services system can be dehumanising for jobseekers who are often treated as if they intend to exploit the system for personal gain.[6] This is notwithstanding evidence that this stereotype applies only to a very small number of jobseekers.[7]One individual recounted the following experience:

[M]essages were more often than not punitive, you will be punished if you provide incorrect information, don’t provide information on time etc. … [They] were never couched in terms of ‘we’re here to assist you in finding a job and support you until you do’. They gave the impression that the message was really ‘we know you’re rorting the system, you’re a bludger and we’ll catch you and punish you’.[8]

9.5The pervasive stereotype of the ‘dole bludger’ was also raised during the Robodebt Royal Commission, with evidence indicating that stigma can have a significant negative impact on income support recipients’ self-perception and willingness to seek support.[9] The Robodebt Royal Commission recommended Services Australia design policies and processes with a primary emphasis on the recipients it is meant to serve, stating that this should entail:

  • avoiding language and conduct which reinforces feelings of stigma and shame associated with the receipt of government support when it is needed;
  • facilitating easy and efficient engagement, with options of online, in-person and telephone communication available according to the particular circumstances of the customer cohort including itinerant lifestyles, lack of access to technology, lack of digital literacy, and the particular difficulties rural and remote living;
  • explaining processes to recipients using clear terms and plain language; and
  • acting with sensitivity to financial and other forms of stress experienced by income support recipients and taking all practicable steps to avoid the possibility that interactions with government might exacerbate stress.[10]
    1. Stakeholders noted that a jobseeker’s initial contact with a service provider similarly focuses on compliance and enforcement rather than on support. For example, the Antipoverty Centre noted that the first interaction with a provider typically focuses on signing a Job Plan rather than understanding an individual’s needs and aspirations.[11]The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) stated that there is a pervasive threat of payment suspension during the process of developing the Job Plan.[12] This was also reflected in other submissions. For example:
  • One individual stated that they were in tears during their initial appointment with their provider when told that they would be expected to apply for 20 jobs on top of their studies, despite facing barriers to employment.[13]
  • Another individual recounted feeling that they had little choice or agency, noting that if they did not sign a Job Plan or attend an appointment, their payments may be suspended, reduced, or cancelled.[14]
  • Ms Kaye Demetriou stated that despite having cataracts removed 14 days prior, and advising the employment consultant of this matter, she was forced to attend an initial appointment with their provider in person.[15]

Jobseeker assessments

9.7The assistance provided to jobseekers must be based on individual needs and their capacity to benefit. This necessitates a robust and effective assessment framework that identifies both need and capacity and ensures that jobseekers are allocated to services that are the most appropriate to their circumstances.[16]

9.8The Job Seeker Assessment Framework is the overarching structure of processes, tools, and resources used to identify the strengths and barriers of jobseekers. Core elements include the JSS and the Employment Services Assessment (ESAt).[17] The Framework also captures the Digital Services Reviews which occur at four and eight months for participants in Workforce Australia Online.[18]

9.9Some stakeholders raised concern that the core function of the Assessment Framework is rationing expenditure rather than comprehensively assessing jobseekers’ needs and barriers to employment.[19]For example, Economic Justice Australia (EJA) stated:

The JSS appears to be used as a tool that enables the reduction of expenditure on service provision by rationing available services and minimising human involvement in conducting intake assessments. The JSS enables the number of people eligible for intensive assistance to be ‘controlled by varying the threshold scores of the JSCI’. On this metric, the goal appears to be cost-effectiveness.[20]

Initial assessment: Job Seeker Snapshot

9.10The JSS is a questionnaire which collects information on jobseekers’ circumstances, including job search confidence, experience, education, background, and ability to use online tools. The JSS incorporates the Job Seeker Classification Instrument (JSCI), which weighs numerous factors to assess relative disadvantage and the likelihood of an individual becoming long-term unemployed (LTU). The JSCI score is used to determine the most appropriate service for the jobseeker.[21]

9.11Statistical profiling has been used in employment services since the early 1990s, and the JSCI has been used since 1998. On occasion, new factors are added and others are removed. However, the basis of this model has remained largely unchanged.[22]

9.12The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) reported that 65.5per cent of participants complete the JSS by phone, and 28.0 per cent complete the JSS online.[23] During trials of the JSS conducted from 2018 to 2020, most participants had little difficulty completing the JSS online, and found the website easy to navigate.[24] DEWR noted that several enhancements were made to the JSS with rollout of Workforce Australia, including:

  • reduced duplication via pre-population of responses from income support data;
  • grouping of questions and the introduction of a cleaner, more modern interface;
  • integrating questions to determine an individuals’ internet and digital skills and ability to use and access Workforce Australia Online; and
  • the introduction of new metrics which do not affect the JSCI score, including job search interests and confidence in the job search process.[25]
    1. In addition to supporting the referral of jobseekers to services, the JSS is used to identify individuals who:
  • disclosed domestic violence, family grief or trauma and may need to be referred to a Services Australia Social Worker; or
  • would benefit from referral to Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) or Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) to assist with language, literacy and numeracy.[26]
    1. Several stakeholders raised concern as to the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the JSS and impacts on referrals.[27] The Committee heard that inaccuracies are often a result of the jobseeker’s reluctance to disclose personal information and the use of aggregated and algorithm-based assessment tools.[28] For example, CoAct stated:

[A] jobseeker is often motivated to report only things which present them, and their circumstances, in the best possible light and may be believe that disclosing barriers is detrimental. Other jobseekers may be unaware of the impact various circumstances may have on their capacity to find and sustain employment.[29]

9.15CoAct went on to note that during the income support claiming process, jobseekers are under stress and focus predominantly on access to payments, which is not conducive to sharing personal or sensitive information or to jobseekers making informed decisions about their provider. CoAct asserted that registration for income support should be handled separately from assessment and referral.[30]

9.16Several other stakeholders similarly told the Committee that jobseekers are typically focused on income support during the initial assessment process and are reluctant to disclose information to Centrelink for fear it will impact their payments.[31]

9.17The disclosure of personal and sensitive information requires a relationship of trust between the jobseeker and assessor. Stakeholders expressed doubt as to whether such a relationship can be built in within the current JSS process.[32] Access Care Network Australia (ACNA) stated it is often difficult to balance requests for personal and sensitive information with a strengths-based assessment that promotes jobseekers’ sense of worth and the value they contribute to society.[33]

9.18Jobseekers also told the Committee that the assessment process did not accurately capture their needs or work capacity. For example, one individual stated:

I was assessed as able to return to English language teaching even though I told the assessor that wasn’t physically practical due to the demands of the job. The assessment was based on assumptions, not evidence.[34]

9.19Providers also expressed concern as to the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the JSS, noting that jobseekers may require multiple contacts (an average of two to four) to begin disclosing the full suite of barriers to employment.[35]

9.20The failure of the JSS to reliably identify and respond to mental health challenges was a concern for stakeholders.[36]This was reflected in findings by the Productivity Commission which highlighted under-identification of mental health issues:

[The] JSCI [is] conducted over the phone in less than 5 minutes by a Services Australia assessor … [A] 2014–15 National Health Survey estimated that 42percent of Newstart and 29 per cent of Youth Allowance recipients had a mental illness, but only 16 per cent of Newstart and 7 per cent of Youth Allowance recipients self-reported a mental illness when they completed the JSCI.[37]

9.21This concern about the JSS being conducted online or by phone (rather than face-to-face) was echoed by several stakeholders.[38] MAX Solutions (MAX) noted that the current format for the JSS does not support people with disability to disclose matters which are likely to impact on their ability to participate in services:

One scenario we have seen … on several occasions is job seekers presenting at initial appointments with significant physical disabilities and classified as what was formally Stream A [closest to the labour market]. When we speak to them they rightly say that they don’t see themselves as having a disability. Whilst this is exactly the attitude we want all our job seekers to have, it doesn’t minimise the impact their condition will have on finding the right job and employer and the level of additional support that may be required. If the [JSS] had been completed in person, arguably the person asking the questions could have recorded that information and asked follow-up questions to ensure any issues were taken into account in the streaming process.[39]

9.22During its European delegation, the Committee heard that in Denmark the initial meeting with a client is required to be face-to-face.

9.23DEWR stated that jobseekers are often reluctant to disclose personal information during the initial contact with Services Australia, noting that trials of the JSS found that for the purposes of this initial contact jobseekers are more likely to disclose barriers to employment and indicators of vulnerability online rather than face-to-face. Subsequent in-person engagement with a provider and the building of a relationship of trust are therefore critical to ensuring that jobseekers feel supported to disclose sensitive information and to developing the supports that are needed to move the jobseeker closer to the labour market.[40]

9.24DEWR also noted that during the 2022 evaluation of jobactive, stakeholders raised concern that the JSCI may lack specificity and can result in jobseekers being referred to inappropriate services.DEWR stated that the efficacy of the JSS is likely to increase under Workforce Australia’s simplified servicing model.[41]

9.25Stakeholders raised concern that failure to identify barriers to employment—and particularly barriers associated with digital literacy—may result in jobseekers being inappropriately referred to digital services. Without additional support, jobseekers may languish on the digital caseload until they reach the maximum allowable period for online assistance. At this point, a jobseeker will be LTU by most metrics and may be more difficult to support when they transition to provider-led services.[42] Stakeholders indicated that whether a jobseeker is accurately streamed to online or provider-led services is often more important than the length of time spent in online services or the quality of supports a jobseeker receives in that program.[43]

9.26There were also calls for enhanced transparency in relation to certain aspects of the Job Seeker Assessment Framework, including algorithms that determine the service to which a jobseeker is referred.[44]

Employment Services Assessments

9.27The ESAt is a comprehensive assessment by health or allied health professionals in Centrelink. It is designed to determine an individual’s ability to work and their work capacity, including personal or vocational reasons for long-term reduced capacity. The ESAt is also used to determine the most appropriate employment service for a jobseeker—for example Disability Employment Services (DES) or Workforce Australia provider-led services. Jobseekers may be referred for ESAt for additional assessment after they have completed the JSS. Providers may also refer jobseekers to the ESAt if new information is disclosed after the JSS is complete. An ESAt is valid for two years.[45]

9.28Concerns about the ESAt reflected broader concerns with the jobseeker assessment process. For example, Workways Australia Ltd (Workways) noted that ESAts may not be accessible, with jobseekers waiting weeks or months for appointments.[46]

9.29Other stakeholders highlighted challenges in obtaining medical evidence to support ESAts. Yilabara Solutions indicated that this is a particular issue for First Nations jobseekers who may have little engagement with medical and other health services due to cost, transport issues, and fear of repercussions.[47]

9.30SSI called for a review of ESAts, including the approach to gathering data, and to categorising participants; noting that evidence requirements are complex and are exacerbated by financial and language barriers.[48]

9.31Similar feedback was reflected in the DES review, where stakeholders advocated for people with disability to be allowed to access DES while awaiting medical evidence.[49]

9.32Some measures have been implemented to address these issues. For example, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has partnered with Services Australia around measures to reimburse medical providers who treat eligible veterans.[50] Further, in November 2023, the Australian Government announced the tripling of the incentives for GPs to bulk bill Commonwealth Concession Card holders.[51]

Model for an assessment framework

9.33Stakeholders made suggestions for how the current Job Seeker Assessment Framework could be improved to ensure that it collects accurate information on jobseekers and ensures they are allocated to the most appropriate service. There was fairly broad consensus that, subject to enhancements, the JSS could be retained as a means of quickly and effectively identifying those jobseekers who are capable and confident using digital (hybrid) services and who are likely to quicky exit into employment—with more in-depth assessment for other jobseekers.[52]

9.34This view broadly reflected the three-stage approach to assessment in the I Want to Work report:

1Identify those who can self-manage online.

2Comprehensive assessment to decide the most appropriate level of services.

3In-depth, ongoing assessment of skill, capabilities and needs while in assistance, to personalise services they will receive while in the system.[53]

9.35ACNA argued that if there are doubts about a jobseeker’s capacity to self-manage online, assessors could ask a jobseeker to demonstrate their ability to search for jobs online rather than merely asking the jobseeker to self-report.[54] ACNA also asserted that in-depth assessment must be viewed by a jobseeker as a human-centered experience, to enable assessors to collect observational data. Moreover, the assessment should not—at least initially—focus on a jobseeker’s weaknesses or deficits, but instead seek to understand a jobseeker’s history. This includes talking about a jobseeker’s hopes and aspirations. ACNA also emphasised the importance of a conversational approach.[55] WISE Employment described a similar process, noting that such a process should involve:

… using open-ended questioning techniques and a ‘whole of person ‘approach, encompassing all life domains which might impact and present barriers … such as health, family, community connectedness, housing, transportation, and overall wellbeing. This … would help identify the strengths that could be used to support the person on their employment journey as well as other needs or barriers.[56]

9.36ACNA emphasised that it is important that information gathered during assessment informs subsequent program referral and is used to underpin delivery of assistance. ACNA also stated that once a jobseeker is referred to and has commenced with their provider, information gathered via the initial assessment must be available to the provider, to avoid a jobseeker having to repeat their story and to enable seamless transitions from assessment to planning.[57]

9.37The Enterprise and Training Company (ETC) similarly observed that assessments should be progressive ‘living documents’ and should include detailed information on factors such as experience, skills, attitudes, motivation, barriers, and support needs. According to the ETC, assessments should be customisable to diverse job seeker circumstances and local employer expectations.[58]

9.38Other stakeholders indicated that the assessment process should involve mapping jobseekers’ employability and core skills to labour market requirements, and that jobseekers should be supported to understand how they can fill skills and training gaps that present barriers to achieving their goals.[59] During its European delegation, the Committee heard that the Netherlands is experimenting with innovative ways to adopt a broader view of skills for jobseekers seeking to re-enter the labour market or change sectors, by assessing, mapping and placing value on skills obtained via life experience. This is, in essence, a creative way of identifying transferable skills outside just those obtained through formal training or paid work. The Committee also heard that in Austria, a dual-stream approach to assessments is applied:

  • preventative assessments, that seeks to identify people at risk of long-term unemployment early on and offering tailored personal assistance; and
  • curative assessments, that looks to identify barriers and understand a person’s capabilities and goals, to help ensure that appropriate, person-centred support is provided.
    1. Similarly, the Committee was told that a service trials in France are focusing on the use of detailed social and professional diagnoses to help guide clients to access the assistance that they need to improve their employability.
    2. Stakeholders presented examples of where person-centred assessment process had been used. For example:
  • MTC Australia (MTC) stated that when jobseekers are referred, they conduct an in-depth assessment to identify a jobseeker’s specific needs and identify those with complex vocational and non-vocational barriers. This is used to determine whether a jobseeker would benefit from referral to allied health or other programs. In-depth assessment also assists MTC to learn jobseekers’ aspirations, evaluate job readiness, and their transferrable skills.[60]
  • CVGT Employment (CVGT) drew attention to the Intake Phase under the previous Disability Employment Network, stating that during intake a jobseeker underwent assessment via Disability Pre-employment Instrument. This was a process of gathering information over four to six weeks, conducted face-to-face with an assessment officer. Face-to-face interaction was found to be an effective mechanism to identify the nature and impact of complex barriers and to help set the starting point for appropriate assistance.[61]
  • The Australian Centre for Career Education (ACCE) highlighted work undertaken with the City of Greater Dandenong, Hume City Council, and Mooney Valley Council pathway programs since 2017 to assist disadvantaged jobseekers. This involved augmenting local career counselling services and making greater use of the Employment Readiness Scale. ACCE also noted that in Canada many employment services use the PRIME tool, which is designed to capture dimensions of employability and changes to those dimensions over time following assistance.[62]
  • MAX outlined their assessment tool, which specifically asks questions to assess motivation and readiness to work. This is followed by a further assessment when the job seeker is ready to commence in work, focused on self-confidence and on identifying the need for in-work support. Once in work, a further assessment of the jobseeker’s level of self-confidence is undertaken.[63]
    1. Stakeholders also argued that independence in the assessment process is important as there is a risk that providers will try to have jobseekers reclassified to claim additional fees, or to avoid responsibility for jobseekers who may be difficult to place in employment.[64] MTC stated that assessment should not be undertaken by a provider, to ensure that program referral is not influenced by external factors.[65]
    2. The Committee also heard that Services Australia should not deliver assessments. For example, Workways noted low satisfaction with the agency’s delivery of ESAts,[66] while APM Employment Services (APM) indicated that making Services Australia responsible for assessments would risk conflating assessment with the management of income support.[67]
    3. Other stakeholders supported a model under which Services Australia would deliver assessments, noting that Services Australia already employs staff with the relevant skills and training (such as social workers).[68]
    4. The skills of the staff conducting assessments were also identified as critical to their success. For example, Economic Justice Australia (EJA) stated that staff must be able to understand key barriers to employment.[69] The ACNA observed that the ability to work respectfully with a diversity of jobseekers and must be able to understand the impact of context, unconscious bias, and cultural belief. This requires staff with self-efficacy and self-awareness, and with the ability to adapt to a jobseeker’s needs:

An assessor is not someone who sits there with a clipboard and asks a bunch of questions in order.[70]

9.45Consultation for the recent DES review similarly identified a need for appropriately trained assessors who understand the programs, supports, and services available. The consultation found that assessors should have specialist knowledge of barriers to employment—including specific disability types—to ensure they understand the impact of those barriers on a jobseeker’s employment prospects. The consultation recommended that assessors possess skills and qualifications in allied health, occupational therapy, and employment services.[71]

Referral process

9.46A key objective of contracting out employment services is to ensure jobseekers can exercise greater choice.[72] This was reflected in the 2017 Productivity Commission review which found that user choice in the provision of human services improves outcomes by:

  • giving people agency over their own lives,
  • empowering people to make decisions according to needs and preferences; and
  • incentivising providers to be more responsive to the needs of users, driving innovation and efficiency in service delivery.[73]
    1. Jobseekers referred to Workforce Australia Services are shown a list of providers to choose from at their Participation Interview. This will include specialist providers if the jobseeker is eligible and if there is a specialist provider in the local area. Jobseekers who do not choose a provider are referred to one by default.[74]
    2. DEWR noted that from July 2022 to September 2023 there were 207,864 initial referrals to Workforce Australia Services providers. This includes participants who were referred by Services Australia, or transferring from Workforce Australia Online, Transition to Work (TtW) or another employment service program, but excludes people who transitioned from jobactive and people who moved between Workforce Australia Services sites. Of these initial referrals:
  • 76.6 per cent were recorded as ‘preference allocation’, where the provider was manually selected from a list of available sites; and
  • 23.4 per cent were auto-allocated by DEWR’s IT system.[75]
    1. According to DEWR, the three key factors influencing a jobseeker’s choice of provider are location; previous relationship with the provider; and word of mouth. Under previous employment services, DEWR published Star Ratings and user reviews for providers. However, the extent to which jobseekers used the ratings in making choices about providers was low, with only fourpercent of respondents to a 2017 survey indicating that they were aware of Star Ratings. As of July 2023, performance data for Workforce Australia providers is released on a quarterly basis.[76]

Jobseeker agency in the choice of provider and services

9.50The Committee received mixed evidence as to whether jobseekers are able to exercise informed choice when selecting their provider.

9.51Joblink Plus stated that jobseekers are able to make an informed choice about their provider, since they are free to select a generalist provider even where they are eligible for specialist servicing.[77] Asuria People Services (Asuria) similarly noted that jobseekers have their choice of provider, but acknowledged that a lack of information and the complexity of the assessment and referral process can impact the extent to which jobseekers are able to exercise that choice.[78]

9.52Professor Jeff Borland explained that employment services are an ‘experience’ good rather than a ‘search good’. This means that jobseekers are rarely able to obtain sufficient information about the quality of a provider prior to being allocated to services. Most of the information available to a jobseeker is generated through experience of service delivery. In addition, once a jobseeker is allocated to a provider, they are often ‘locked in’ with that provider. This is due to the limited number of alternative providers, familiarity with the first provider and their staff, and the impact of financial and other stresses on the jobseeker’s capacity to make deliberative choices.[79] The experience of becoming ‘locked in’ with a specific provider was also reflected in evidence from Professor Mark Considine, who stated:

[A]ll the data is that people don't switch. They're incredibly sticky. They take the first supply that comes along, and, even if there's $1,000 on the table for switching, they don't switch. So that part of the model, I think, is absolutely unhelpful to us. It's not going to improve responsiveness to the consumer.[80]

9.53There is a prevailing belief that greater choice and competition in human services drives better outcomes for clients, however this is not borne out by more recent academic and policy research as outlined in Chapter2. In particular, choice and competition have been found to lead to poor outcomes for clients from low socioeconomic backgrounds, leading to higher levels of inequality. In addition, while outsourcing of services can reduce costs to government, evidence indicates that this often comes at the expense of service quality.[81]

9.54In its 2017 report on competition and informed user choice in human services, the Productivity Commission observed that users should have choice over the services they access and who provides them unless there are sound reasons otherwise, stating that choice empowers users to have greater control over their lives and can generate incentives for providers to be responsive to their needs. The commission also acknowledged that there will be some circumstances where user choice is not desirable, and that in such cases it is critical that the best interests of users, rather than government or providers, remains at the heart of service provision.[82] In their submisison to the 2017 inquiry, the BSL went a step further, stating:

While user choice refers to the right for consumers to enter or exit a given service, agency implies not merely choice, but also voice; the opportunity to have meaningful input into the menu of choices available …

[B]efore attempting to apply ‘user choice’ to new service areas, government [should] reconsider how to introduce greater user voice into services areas where individual budgets are already being used, such as by creating opportunities for coproduction with citizens.[83]

9.55Research has also found that quasi-market systems and associated policy settings assume that clients require reward and punishment to drive behavioural change. These systems fail to recognise that clients also have strong intrinsic motivations—including a desire for greater agency and a desire to build interpersonal relations—and fail to recognise that unlocking these motivations is often much more effective in terms of achieving outcomes than extrinsic motivation. Evidence indicates that this is a key issue for the employment services system.[84] For example, CoAct stated:

Enabling genuine jobseeker choice and a sense of agency is critical to supporting both engagement and effective capacity building. Jobseekers who feel controlled or compelled to undertake particular activities are less likely to engage positively with their Provider, or the employment preparation and job search process.[85]

9.56The AUWU observed a lack of transparency in relation to the reasons jobseekers will be connected with a particular provider.[86]

9.57Multicultural Australia noted that jobseekers’ often low level of understanding of the employment services system, coupled with a tendency to invest deep respect in the authority of government services, limits a jobseeker’s ability to exercise choice and control. This can be a particular issue for migrant and refugee jobseekers.[87]

9.58Some stakeholders made suggestions as to what may be done to improve jobseeker choice. Jobs Australia asserted that information on local providers and their strengths and specialisations should be made available.[88] The Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland (ECCQ) made a similar suggestion, noting that this could include key information on the diversity of provider staff, the provider’s employer networks, and the provider’s connection with relevant community services.[89]

9.59CoAct noted that jobseekers’ ability to make informed choices about their provider—like their ability to engage with assessment processes—is impacted by the stress associated with claiming income support and rapid connection requirements. CoAct suggested that the process to choose a provider be separated from the process to claim for income support, and that jobseekers be given additional time to make their choice, including to conduct research into providers in the local area where necessary.[90]

9.60Workways observed that in some cases jobseekers are referred to multiple services or providers and will be unsure of which provider to engage and which service would be of greatest benefit. The information on providers in different services is also highly variable. This creates distress and delay for the jobseeker.[91]

9.61In addition to exercising choice in relation to their provider, jobseekers must have greater agency as to the services to which they are referred and the assistance they receive.[92]

9.62EJA indicated that this choice should extend to online and provider-led services, with jobseekers asked if they would prefer online or in-person services during their initial engagement with Services Australia and given greater flexibility to change services at a later date where this is necessary and appropriate.[93]

9.63The Salvation Army Employment Plus (SAEP) asserted that the skills and experience of frontline staff is critical to enabling jobseekers to make informed decisions about service and supports. SAEP noted that many jobseekers do not fully understand the services available.[94]

9.64CoAct observed that giving jobseekers greater choice over their provider and over supports they receive contributes to better outcomes, emphasising that jobseekers who feel compelled to undertake particular activities are unlikely to engage positively with their provider or with the employment preparation and job search process.[95]

9.65DEWR highlighted areas where jobseekers can exercise control over the assistance they receive. According to DEWR, key examples include the ability to meet mutual obligations in a range of ways using the Points Based Activation System (PBAS), and jobseekers’ control over the training they receive.[96]

9.66DEWR also observed that jobseekers on the online caseload may elect to move to online services at any time—either by making a request online or by contacting the Digital Services Contact Centre (DSCC) or the National Customer Service Line (NCSL) directly. DEWR has also increased outbound calls as a form of welfare check for online participants—including to assist participants to transfer to provider-led services where this is necessary.[97] However, even where it is identified that a jobseeker is not faring well in or should never have been referred to online services, DEWR cannot mandate that a jobseeker move to provider-led services until the ‘default’ period of online service ends.[98] DEWR also noted that services for online participants are very different from, and less intensive than, the services delivered by providers, and described the role of the DSCC as ‘caseload management’.[99]

Transfers and handovers once in assistance

Changing providers and services

9.67One form of greater agency for jobseekers is allowing them more flexibility and support for to change providers or services once in assistance.[100]

9.68atWork Australia (atWork) asserted that transfers between providers must be made easier and more accessible, including via enhancements to the Workforce Australia Online account and NCSL.[101] As another stakeholder stated, existing arrangements for transferring providers limit jobseeker choice:

[U]nemployed workers have a restricted ability to change providers, often being forced to remain with a dysfunctional provider or being unable to become a client of a decent one. This is most prevalent in outer suburban or regional areas.[102]

9.69Professor Leila Green et al observed that, in addition to changing providers, jobseekers should be enabled to move between services if appropriate to their circumstances. Professor Green et al indicated that whether such a move is appropriate should depend on the jobseeker’s perceptions of the progress they have made and their views on the quality of the support they are receiving.[103]

9.70DEWR noted that jobseekers can request a transfer to a different provider if this is their preference. Some transfer requests are automatically actioned, while others will be reviewed by the NCSL. Participants and providers may also request review of transfer decisions. Between 1 July and 31 December 2022, a total of 35,140 jobseekers exercised the choice to transfer to a different provider after commencing in services.[104] While no detailed data was provided, evidence from participants during hearings and sites visits indicates a substantial number will have initiated a transfer to stay with their original provider after they moved and were auto-reallocated to a different provider.

9.71DEWR also noted that jobseekers may transfer between online and provider-led services. Typically, moving from online to provider-led services only requires that a jobseeker make a request through the DSCC or using their online account. Moving from provider-led to online services can be more complex. For example, the request must be supported by the provider, and must be reviewed by the NCSL before being actioned. The NCSL considers a range of factors, including whether the jobseeker agrees to transfer, is able to self-manage, and would benefit from online services.[105]

9.72DEWR provided data on transfers and exits from Workforce Australia Online, noting that between 4 July 2022 and 30 June 2023, 37,434 individuals had transferred to Workforce Australia Services, 925 had transferred to Transition to Work (TtW) and 2,270 had exited to another employment service program (such as DES).[106]

Moving in and out of Community Development Program regions

9.73The Community Development Program (CDP) operates in remote Australia and is designed around the unique social and labour market conditions in remote areas. The program aims to support jobseekers contribute to their communities and build skills. Jobseekers are referred to CDP if they have a residential address located in a CDP region. CDP regions cover around 75 per cent of Australia’s land mass and capture over 1,000 communities. There are around 40,000 CDP participants.[107]

9.74While eligibility criteria for the program do not require participants to identify as FirstNations peoples, First Nations peoples have consistently made up around 80per cent of the CDP caseload. As of 30June 2023, 86percent of the caseload identified as First Nations.[108]

9.75Jobseekers are often transient between CDP and mainstream employment services. During jobactive (July 2015 to June 2022), there were 47,938 exits from jobactive to CDP for 34,791 jobseekers. Of this cohort, 25 per cent moved multiple times between the programs. Proportions of transient jobseekers also vary across regions. For example, in Broome 34.6percent of exits related to jobseekers moving to the CDP.[109]

9.76Regional Development Australia (RDA) Kimberly observed that transitions between programs may be explained—at least in part—by seasonal conditions and cultural practices. According to RDA Kimberly, existing boundaries between CDP and Workforce Australia do not consider regional ties nor the needs or demographic characteristics of participants.[110]

9.77A jobseeker may elect to be serviced by a Workforce Australia or CDP provider irrespective of their residential address. However, the choice to be serviced by a CDP or Workforce Australia provider must be approved by both the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) and DEWR. Approval depends on whether it is practical for the jobseeker to be serviced by the relevant provider. Accordingly, it is less likely that approval would be given for the jobseeker to be serviced by a CDP provider if they do not live close to the boundary of a CDP region. This jobseeker may remain eligible for both services. DEWR and the NIAA told the Committee that the process to for a jobseeker to elect to be serviced by a specific provider can be onerous and asserted that a key consideration in designing a new remote employment services program must be enabling participants to move easily between programs and regions.[111]

9.78The Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation (NAC) agreed with this view, indicating that a new service should also address concerns that the CDP and Workforce Australia operate in silos.[112]

Recognising disability and illnesses

9.79A small proportion of people who are compelled to participate in Workforce Australia are Disability Support Pension (DSP) recipients under the age of 35 and with an assessed work capacity of at least eight hours a week. These individuals will have compulsory participation requirements instead of mutual obligation requirements.[113] The Department of Social Services (DSS) reported that around 215 members of this cohort were in Workforce Australia Online and 150 were in Workforce Australia Services as of 31 March 2023.[114]

9.80DEWR observed that of the 220,000 people on that Workforce Australia caseload that had undertaken an ESAt as of 30September 2022 (including those on the DSP), 60 per cent had a confirmed mental health condition, 58 per cent had a confirmed physical health condition, and 55 per cent had multiple health conditions.[115]

9.81DEWR noted that, as of 29 September 2023, 11.8 per cent of the Workforce Australia caseload were subject to an exemption from activity requirements. Medical incapacity was listed as the most common reason for an exemption. Obtaining an exemption for medical incapacity typically requires the ‘jobseeker’ to provide medical evidence. Additional medical evidence may also be required if a person seeks to have their exemption extended or to have a subsequent exemption applied. Stakeholders indicated that obtaining medical evidence can be challenging, and lead to additional stress and anxiety. For example, one participant stated:

I got mutual obligations exemption medical certificates. But that was anxiety-inducing in itself—the fact that every three months I had to run the risk of some Centrelink person with no medical experience overruling a doctor's medical certificate. It got to the point where they just stopped accepting them—giving me the whole, 'Your condition is permanent and therefore you are not exempt,' and all that kind of stuff. So now it is a two-week anxiety cycle of meeting my obligations under DES and everything else and then having my fortnightly meetings with them. It is just, like—unemployment is not fun enough as it is.[116]

9.82Evidence indicated that the abolition of the Sickness Allowance and tightening of eligibility criteria for the DSP resulted in a small number of people with illnesses and disability being referred to employment services despite not being able to work and being unlikely to obtain work.[117] Stakeholders indicated that the policy settings for both employment services and income support needed to be adapted to better support people with short-term or episodic disabilities or health conditions.[118]

Eligibility for Disability Support Pension

9.83COTA Australia indicated that that there are individuals in the jobseeker market who should receive the DSP. However, complexities in the assessment process for the DSP means that these people may not be found eligible. Others may not apply for the Pension due to the perception that they will be found ineligible. COTA Australia noted that when these individuals are streamed into Workforce Australia, they may be permitted to satisfy their mutual obligations through volunteering. However, these individuals are often not offered education and training due to an assumption that they cannot be retrained or made ready for work.[119]

9.84During site visits, some individuals told the Committee that while they met the DSPcriteria, they were not assessed as eligible or struggled to obtain evidence. DSSconfirmed that people with episodic disability or health conditions face challenges in gathering medical evidence. DSS also confirmed that people with a partial capacity to work may not qualify for DSP because they have been assessed as able to work more than 15 hours per week or their condition may not be considered permanent.[120]

9.85Individuals may be allocated to a program of support while waiting for their DSP claim to be processed. Often, this results in individuals being referred to Workforce Australia Services during this time.[121]

Sickness Allowance

9.86The Sickness Allowance was an income support payment that provided financial assistance to people who were temporarily prevented from working or studying due to illness and who did not have access to adequate income support. With the consolidation of Working Age Payments from March2020, Sickness Allowance was rolled into JobSeeker, and closed to new entrants at that time. Sickness Allowance ceased entirely in September 2020. Historically, Sickness Allowance was paid at the same rate as the main unemployment payment.[122]

9.87Under current policy settings, people with short-term illnesses who do not have the capacity to work, and people who have longer-term conditions which do not meet the criteria to access the DSP, can obtain an exemption to job search and other requirements by providing a medical certificate. If the person does not have a certificate, they must look for work.[123]

9.88Stakeholders put to the Committee that accessing medical certificates to support exemptions can be cumbersome, with individuals stating that they are currently obliged to visit their GP every three months to obtain a medical certificate.[124]

9.89Stakeholders called for reinstatement of the Sickness Allowance, with one stating that it is unjust to have people with permanent chronic health issues, and who have little prospect of gaining employment, be categorised as jobseekers and placed on JobSeeker only to end up as part of the LTU cohort or unemployable.[125]

Committee comment

9.90A jobseeker’s first interaction with employment services will typically be when they register for income support and are contacted by Centrelink to arrange an interview to assess their eligibility for employment assistance. This is a confronting time for many people and the process should be as welcoming and supportive as possible to lower anxiety and build trust. Trust is essential if a jobseeker is to disclose their barriers and aspirations and make an informed choice about the support(s) they receive.

9.91In its interim report, the Committee expressed concern that the process of contacting jobseekers to refer them to ParentsNext is inappropriate and adds to the considerable stress and anxiety already felt by parents of young children. The Committee recommended that initial contact with participants be reframed to ensure it is person-centred and informs participants of the roles, functions, and benefits of the program.

9.92Similar concerns persist across the broader employment services system. Accordingly, the Committee remains concerned that:

  • too many jobseekers are unable to access proper advice upfront about employment services and make informed choices;
  • the initial engagement focuses far too much on obligations and the consequences for non-compliance, rather than on support and the benefits that could be realised through participation; and
  • allocation to a provider is not based on what service or support is best for a person. Rather, DEWR’s ‘secret sorting hat’ appears to allocate people based on provider viability.
    1. Simply put, for many people the intake process does not enable a proper assessment of a person’s barriers and aspirations and starts things off on the back foot, breeding fear and distrust from the outset.
    2. The current overwhelming focus on compliance and enforcement reinforces the ugly cultural stereotype of the ‘dole bludger’—the myth that assumes all jobseekers are lazy and seeking to exploit the system for personal gain, rather than people who are seeking necessary financial support, who have intrinsic motivations to seek work, and who will make genuine efforts to search for work if the right support is provided.
    3. It is critical that a rebuilt system take account of the lessons of the recent Robodebt Royal Commission by designing policies and processes around the people they are intended to serve, including by avoiding language and conduct that reinforces feelings of shame in being unemployed and accessing support. The Committee accepts the overwhelming evidence that a deficit model that focuses overly on extrinsic motivations is less effective than a more supportive, strengths-based approach that builds trust and tailors a plan and supports to the individual.
    4. The Committee considers that the recommendation in its interim report regarding initial contact with jobseekers is equally applicable across the employment services system. Initial contact must be built around the jobseeker that the system is meant to support, and must:
  • ensure jobseekers have sufficient information about the role and function of employment services, including by ensuring consistent information on government websites and enabling jobseekers to contact relevant officers to obtain advice;
  • recognise that engagement with services can add to existing stress and anxiety for jobseekers—particularly those who experience more significant disadvantage;
  • focus on the roles, functions, and benefits of employment services rather than on obligations, responsibilities, and compliance; and
  • avoid conduct and language which reinforces any shame or stigma associated with accessing income support payments or employment assistance, including conduct or language which suggests the jobseeker intends to exploit the system. Consistent with the recommendations of the Robodebt Royal Commission, communications should use plain, sensitive language.
    1. The principles above should not suggest that no information about mutual obligations or other requirements should be provided. Of course, a clear explanation of those requirements will be necessary, particularly if the system is to transition smoothly to a new mutual obligation and compliance framework as outlined in Chapter 14. Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests that some clients may require additional information on their participation requirements, how to comply with them, and how to engage with the system more generally. The Committee considers that providing this information in an accessible form during initial engagement, with the information also available on an ongoing, as-needs basis (for example, via relevant government websites), should help to improve understanding of the system among clients and help to reduce breaches of participation requirements. However, the focus of initial engagement must be to build trust, assess needs; and emphasise the support and benefit ofproviding a service to someone.

Recommendation 28

9.98The Committee recommends that the Australian Government reframe its initial contact with and messaging to jobseekers as quickly as possible. A better framework for contacting jobseekers should include the following key elements:

  • Clear, consistent information is available on relevant government websites about the roles, functions, operation, and benefits of employment services.
  • Jobseekers are able to contact responsible agencies directly for advice on employment services and income support within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Avoiding conduct or language that reinforces shame associated with accessing income or employment support.
  • Ensuring communications use plain, sensitive language.
  • Communications notifying jobseekers of their Participation Interview are unambiguous as to reasons for the contact and clearly explain the purpose of the interview.
  • If possible, outbound calls show a dedicated phone number, so recipients know who the contact is from. This should acknowledge potential concerns as to spoofing, spam and fraud.
    1. Also clear to the Committee is that current assessment arrangements are deficient. In particular, assessments rely too heavily on self-reporting and prioritise rapid allocation to programs and services over understanding and tailoring responses to barriers and needs.
    2. The Committee notes that jobseeker assessment is routinely conducted online or by phone and—at least in the view of jobseekers—is indistinguishable from the process to claim income support. Accordingly, as eligible applicants for the JobSeeker and Youth Allowance (Other) are understandably focused on doing whatever is necessary to secure income support (and sometimes desperately so), people often fail to disclose key barriers to employment, and responses to questions are coloured by fear that responses will impact payment eligibility. Compounding this issue is that the JSS seeks to assess the likelihood of a jobseeker exiting income support, rather than the likelihood of finding sustained, quality employment.
    3. In addition, to the extent that jobseekers are given choice and agency in relation to providers and services, they often make choices with limited information and insufficient time. Moreover, jobseekers are currently expected to make decisions about services and providers while in a state of anxiety and stress and on the basis of a desire for rapid access to income support and the actual or perceived distance travelled to access supports. This must change.
    4. The Committee is perplexed by evidence that a large percentage of people in online services are not digitally literate and concerned that many people in online services have not been adequately assessed. It is proposed that a reformed assessment process should be delivered by Employment Services Australia (ESA) and incorporate:
  • a reformed JSS which raises the level of confidence that a person should be referred to online (hybrid) services; and
  • a new more in-depth Assessment Service for people not confirmed as clearly suitable for online (hybrid) services to map a person according to where they are against pathways to employment and propose a suitable mix of services. The assessment process should be a valuable intervention in its own right with an emphasis on face-to-face dialogue and building trust, rather than simply a crude rapid referral process to a provider.
    1. There is merit in keeping the JSS as a means of identifying jobseekers who are closest to the labour market and who should be supported in ESA’s digital or hybrid services. This is contingent on making changes to the JSS so that it effectively identifies those who are closest to the labour market and who possess a sufficient level of digital literacy to engage with online services. Changes should be trialled before being rolled out across the employment services system.
    2. Where it is not very clear from the JSS that a person is suitable for digital or hybrid services, a client should be referred for face-to-face or at least video assessment by an appropriately skilled officer (subject to their preferences around in-person and remote engagement). This would aim to fully understand the jobseeker’s circumstances, capabilities and needs.
    3. A key change from current arrangements is that the focus would be understanding the jobseeker and on building rapport and trust which supports full and accurate disclosure— even if this takes multiple interviews. Implementing the new Assessment Services would accordingly require changes to RapidConnect so that instead of being rapidly allocated to a contracted provider, a jobseeker not referred quickly to online services would be rapidly referred for in-depth assessment.
    4. The Committee envisages that a better upfront assessment process delivered by the public sector would identify some jobseekers who have little to no short-term prospects of securing employment or have other barriers that should be addressed before seeking quality work. For these people, ESA should be able to prepare a Participation and Jobs Plan setting out agreed goals and activities would then comprise a person’s mutual obligation requirements, including social participation goals, accessing other key services or foundation skills (for example, numeracy, literacy, or English language), in-work training at a social enterprise or suitable local programs. Reassessments can later then lead to an adjustment to a person’s plan and referral to employment services or other supports for job search.
    5. Jobseekers must be provided with clear, detailed information on services and service delivery partners in their local area—and further afield, where appropriate—to enable them to make informed decisions about their supports. This should be accompanied by advice on the most appropriate delivery partner(s) or service(s). In addition, when a jobseeker has selected a service delivery partner, their transition should be accompanied by a warm referral and supported by IT systems designed in accordance with the ‘tell government once’ principle, so that a person is not obliged to repeat their story multiple times to different audiences.
    6. Core to ensuring individuals make an informed choice as to their preferred services and service delivery partner will be giving people sufficient time to make decisions. In the view of the Committee, provided people are meaningfully participating in the detailed assessment process this should fulfil their initial mutual obligations. At the point at which a person is obliged to choose a service they should be given up to a week to make their decision (subject to extensions of time where appropriate). If a choice is not made only then would a jobseeker be allocated to a service partner by default.
    7. Consistent with international experience of multiple countries, the Committee considers that the nexus between claiming income support and assessing a jobseeker in the employment services system should be separated. This is critical to disclose information about their circumstances, barriers, and aspirations without fear that this will affect their eligibility for income support.
    8. Accordingly, the Committee considers that the new ESA Regional Hubs outlined in Chapter 4 should deliver the new Assessment Service. Ideally, subject to resourcing, ESA Regional Hubs would also be enabled to refer jobseekers who are not on income support—and may not be employment services participants—to services in the local area.
    9. The Committee acknowledges that there will need to be a reorganisation of resources to establish a more in-depth assessment process for some jobseekers including more face-to-face interviews. The Committee is persuaded by strong evidence of the benefits of assessment processes in aged care that occurs independent of commercial interests. Taking time to connect a person with the right service and build their agency over that choice has broader benefits and potential cost savings over time.
    10. The Committee does not make any specific recommendations relating to ESAts used for referral to DES, noting that the reformed assessment process is likely to capture several of the matters considered during the ESAt, and that ESAts are likely to be considered in some detail during the current reform of the DES program. However, the Committee encourages the Australian Government to consider whether there would be value in incorporating the delivery of ESAts into the assessment functions of ESA as part of a broader reform agenda.
    11. Noting that the new assessment framework—including the establishing of ESA and ESA Regional Hubs—may take time to implement, the Committee strongly encourages the Australian Government to consider measures to improve assessments in the existing framework, with a focus on giving jobseekers additional information and choice in relation to providers and services.

Recommendation 29

9.114The Committee recommends that the Australian Government co-design a new jobseeker assessment service, including the following key elements:

  • The Job Seeker Snapshot (JSS) is retained, subject to amendments to ensure it accurately identifies jobseekers who are best suited to online-hybrid services. The amendments should be trialled ahead of national rollout and should be subject to robust monitoring and evaluation.
  • All jobseekers, except those determined via the JSS to be suited to online services, are rapidly referred to Employment Services Australia for comprehensive assessment of the jobseekers’ aspirations and barriers.
  • Following assessment, Employment Services Australia (via Regional Hubs):
  • provides details of the services and providers in the area;
  • recommends service(s) that would be most beneficial for the jobseeker;
  • identifies people who have little to no short-term prospects of securing employment, who have other barriers that should be addressed before referral to a provider or who would be better supported by a non-provider service, and prepares a Participation and Jobs Plan for those clients that underpins their mutual obligations; and
  • identifies people who should be referred to a provider for case management and support with job search, providing the jobseeker up to a week to select their provider and supports a handover.
  • A client who shows commitment and meaningfully engages with Employment Services Australia during the assessment process fully meets their mutual accountability requirements for that period.
  • Performance measures for Employment Services Australia focus on the appropriateness of services to which jobseekers are allocated.
    1. The Committee also considers it important that all service delivery partners be able to refer individuals for reassessment by if they believe the jobseeker would be better assisted through a different service. This would include where the jobseeker’s circumstances have changed. Controls must be implemented to ensure providers are not able to use this process inappropriately to move jobseekers with high needs or challenging behaviours to different services to escape responsibility where they are eligible and suitable for support. Similarly, jobseekers should be able to seek reassessment on their own initiative.
    2. Measures should also be implemented to enable jobseekers to self-initiate transfers between services with minimal administrative burden, subject to the service to which the jobseeker wishes to transfer having been identified as appropriate in their assessment by ESA. Transfers should also be accompanied by warm referrals, and the jobseeker should be provided with sufficient information on their (potential) new service partner to enable an informed decision.
    3. The system should also not allow jobseekers to be permanently stuck with a service partner where no progress is being made or they have not secured work. The Committee proposes there be a maximum time that a person should be attached to a service partner, following which an automatic reassessment by ESA would occur to determine if: a person should remain with their current service; if another service or support or option would be more appropriate; or a person would be better case managed directly by ESA who would prepare a new Participation and Jobs Plan. A timeframe of 18–24 months is proposed, noting evidence from Ireland that 12 months is too short for many disadvantaged people to significantly progress towards employment.

Recommendation 30

9.118The Committee recommends that the Australian Government develop and implement measures to:

  • enable providers to refer jobseekers back to Employment Services Australia for reassessment;
  • enable jobseekers to self-initiate transfers between providers and services with minimal administrative burden, subject to the provider or service having been identified as appropriate during their assessment;
  • allow jobseekers to seek reassessment by Employment Services Australia; and
  • require reassessment by Employment Services Australia of jobseekers being supported by a provider who have not secured work within a defined period.
    1. While noting that the CDP is out of scope for this inquiry, the Committee is concerned that it can be difficult to move across CDP and Workforce Australia regions without disruption to services. While jobseekers can choose to be exclusively serviced by one program or the other, the administrative process to exercise this choice is cumbersome.
    2. The Committee’s site visits to the Northern Territory indicated a need to simplify the process for jobseekers who are transient between the CDP and the mainstream employment services system (for example due to cultural responsibilities) to elect to be serviced exclusively or primarily by one service. Measures to simplify this process should be implemented as soon as possible.
    3. The Committee also encourages the NIAA, DEWR, and DSS to carefully evaluate the current boundaries between CDP regions and mainstream employment services regions as part of the ongoing review of the CDP.

Recommendation 31

9.122The Committee recommends that the Australian Government:

  • review the boundaries of Community Development Program (CDP) regions with a view to incorporating clearly urban areas (such as the southern area of Darwin) into mainstream employment services while allowing a ‘buffer’ or ‘overlap’ zone where people can choose to be allocated to CDP or mainstream services; and
  • simplify the process for jobseekers who move regularly between remote and non-remote regions and give consideration to allowing a person to nominate one program through which they will be primarily serviced and stay attached to that service.
    1. The Committee received a range of evidence including through site visits and discussions with case managers and unemployed people regarding the incentives and disincentives caused by social security policy and the broader welfare system.
    2. Probably the most common disincentive identified was concern about the loss of the concession card (which provides significant discounts including on health, utilities, and other services) and the perceived difficulty of ‘getting back on Centrelink’ if a job doesn’t work out. The Committee strongly welcomes the Government’s initiative in the White Paper: Working Futures to extend the ‘zero-rate’ period and allow people to keep their concession card for 12 fortnights which directly responds to this evidence. Taper rates were not seen as nearly as significant by most jobseekers or providers, noting that only a small minority of people use the existing earnings threshold. A minor adjustment to the proposed 12-fortnight period to 13 or 14 fortnights would be desirable, as this would allow all people to cover two cycles of quarterly bills and utilities.
    3. The Committee is concerned by evidence that participants in employment services who are not eligible for the DSP but who have chronic or sustained illness are obliged to repeatedly source medical certificates and other medical evidence to sustain exemptions from mutual obligations. This includes people for whom searching for work is not viable at least in the short to medium term due to illness or injury— for example people doing chemotherapy, recovering from trauma or accidents or suffering from sustained but not permanent mental illness. At any point in time it appears that around 10 per cent of so-called ‘jobseekers’ are not in fact able to work and are simply sick, and the process of repeatedly seeking exemptions or suffering suspensions is time wasting and anxiety-provoking.
    4. The Committee proposes that Government consider reinstating Sickness Allowance and extending eligibility for Sickness Allowance to people with sustained, longer-term medical conditions that make employment unlikely in the foreseeable future. While on Sickness Allowance a person should not be subject to mutual obligations or requirements in their Participation and Jobs Plan. Subject to appropriate controls, there should be a more sensible ability for the acceptance of medical certificates of longer than three months where it is clear that a condition requires longer treatment or recovery time.
    5. The Committee also accepts the significant weight of evidence that there are a small minority, but still sizeable cohort, of people who should be on the Disability Support Pension but who either:
  • meet the criteria but are not being properly assessed; or
  • are not able to quite meet the impairment thresholds by accumulating sufficient points in one table.
    1. It is not clear why all such people need to be referred to a provider for job-search, as opposed to a Services Australia or DEWR case manager or other support services until they are more ‘job ready’.
    2. The Committee is not suggesting that the 2012 changes to impairment thresholds be revisited as this is not within the Terms of Reference for this inquiry or something on which sufficient evidence was provided.
    3. However, the Committee does suggest some adjustments to better assess the eligibility of jobseekers who are extremely-LTU (unemployed for more than five years) for the Disability Support Pension, noting that many of these jobseekers have multiple health conditions and chaotic lives. Measures should include:
  • social work assistance provided to better assess and assist extremely-LTU people likely to be deemed eligible for DSP to gather medical evidence and submit a properly completed DSP application;
  • build in extreme long-term unemployment as a clear example of social exclusion to the psycho-social assessment tables; and
  • support a whole of person assessment for extremely-LTU people, possibly by allowing accumulation of a small number of points from across the impairment tables. Currently, a person has to meet all points from one table and cannot pool points from across tables. A modest adjustment to this may be warranted for extremely-LTU people.
    1. Any such changes need to be carefully considered and designed so as not to create an incentive for a person to be extremely-LTU, while recognising the reality that there are some LTU people who are never going to secure work and should be on the DSP, but who simply cannot navigate the application process or who just miss out due to the nature of their multiple health conditions and disabilities.
    2. The Committee also has concerns about challenges for many jobseekers in obtaining medical evidence—irrespective of whether this is to apply for exemptions, the ESAt, or for another purpose. Government should implement measures to support access to medical evidence. This may include fully subsidising medical appointments used to obtain such evidence—irrespective of whether the relevant practitioner or supplier offers bulk billing. The November 2023 Australian Government decision to triple the incentive for GPs to bulk bill Commonwealth Concession Card holders is an important start, but for many the medical evidence needed will not be from GPs. TheCommittee also notes that there are processes in place to reimburse medical providers for services for eligible veterans. These processes might be expanded or used as a model.

Recommendation 32

9.133The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider reinstating the Sickness Allowance and extending eligibility for the Allowance to people with sustained, medium, or longer-term medical conditions that preclude them from seeking employment in the foreseeable future and allow medical certificates for longer than three months where appropriate.

Recommendation 33

9.134The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider possible minor adjustments, as proposed in this report, to better identify jobseekers who are extremely-long-term unemployed and are eligible for and should be granted a Disability Support Pension. This should be done without revising the impairment tables or creating a perverse incentive to become extremely longterm unemployed.

Recommendation 34

9.135The Committee recommends that the Australian Government develop and implement measures to reduce the cost of obtaining medical evidence for purposes relating to employment services, up to and including offering subsidised medical appointments for this purpose.


[1]Ms Melissa Ryan, First Assistant Secretary—Workforce Australia for Individuals, Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR), Committee Hansard, 3November2022, p. 45.

[2]See Headspace, How to apply for the Centrelink JobSeeker Payment Online, headspace-centres/geelong/how-to-apply-for-the-cen/, viewed 20 November2023.

[3]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 54.

[4]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 54. See also Department of Social Services (DSS), Social Security Guide: ‘RapidConnect’,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[5]See, for example, Name Withheld, Submission 116, pages 1–2; Ms Karen Zaskolny, Submission 131, p. [1]; Mx Eve Geyer, Submission 220, p. [1]; ‘Julie’, Private capacity, Committee Hansard, 20 September 2023, p.35.

[6]See, for example, Ms Karen Black, Submission 94, p. 2; Ms Karen Zaskolny, Submission 131, p. [2]; MrsKerry Hynes, Submission 138, p. 2; Dr Colin Harrison, Submission 152, pages 2-3; Name Withheld, Submission160, p. 6; Name Withheld, Submission 230, p. [3].

[7]See, for example, Mrs Nicole Mattsson, National Services Design and Integration Leader, IntoWork, Committee Hansard, 14March2023, p. 63; Mr Kieran Kearney, CEO, Workways Australia (Workways), Committee Hansard, 6June2023, p. 22; Mr Steve Wyborn, CEO, IntoJobs Committee Hansard, 14March2023, p. 63 who indicated it would be between 5-10percent.

[8]Name Withheld, Submission 116, p. 2.

[9]Robodebt Royal Commission (2023), Report of the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme, pages331–332.

[10]Robodebt Royal Commission (2023), Report of the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme, p.342.

[11]Mr Jay Connan, Co-coordinator—Research and Policy, Antipoverty Centre, Committee Hansard, 19September 2023, p. 14

[12]Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), Submission 203, p.39.

[13]Name Withheld, Submission 221, p. [2]. The provider ultimately supported the individual to be re-assessed into an alternative service. However, this does not always occur.

[14]Name Withheld, Submission 125, p. [2].

[15]Ms Kaye Demetriou, Submission 267, p. 1.

[16]See Institute for Employability Professionals (IEP), Submission 291, p. [13].

[17]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 190. See also DEWR, Job Seeker Assessment Framework,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[18]DEWR, Submission 254.1, p. [26].

[19]See, for example, MAX Solutions (MAX), Submission 146, p. 23; Campbell Page, Submission 150, p. [6]; Workskil Australia (Workskil), Submission 196, p. 15; SYC Ltd (SYC), Submission 189, p. 8; Per Capita, Submission 252, p. [30].

[20]Economic Justice Australia (EJA), Submission 153.1, pages 2–3.

[21]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 54, 56. See also DEWR (2022), Job Seeker Snapshot Overview, p. [3],, viewed20November2023.

[22]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 57. See also DEWR (2022), Job Seeker Snapshot Overview, p. [13].

[23]DEWR, Submission 254.5, p. 9.

[24]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 58.

[25]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 58.

[26]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 56-57.

[27]See, for example, Campbell Page, Submission 150, pages [5-6]; CoAct, Submission 151, p. 10; WISE Employment, Submission 169, p. 12; Multicultural Australia, Submission 182, p. 22; SYC, Submission 189, p.8; Workskil, Submission 196, p. 9; Workways Australia Ltd (Workways), Submission 239, p. 23.

[28]See, for example, CVGT Employment (CVGT), Submission 106, p. 13; IntoWork Australia (IntoWork), Submission 156, p. 3; atWork Australia (atWork), Submission 210, p. 5; Jobs Australia, Submission 185, p.12; Mr Con Kittos, Executive Chairman, Asuria People Services (Asuria), Committee Hansard, 26May2023, p.27.

[29]CoAct, Submission 151, p. 10.

[30]CoAct, Submission 151, p. 12.

[31]See, for example, Workskil, Submission 196, p. 15; The Salvation Army Employment Plus (SAEP), Submission 199, p. 34; National Employment Services Association (NESA), Submission 260, pages 54–55; MatchWorks, Submission 263, p. 21.

[32]See, for example, Joblink Plus, Submission 157, pages 11-12; MTC Australia (MTC), Submission 164, pages4-5; Mission Australia, Submission 190, p. 9; Workskil, Submission 196, p. 15; Yilabara Solutions, Submission 231, p. 16.

[33]Dr Ricki Smith, CEO, Access Care Network Australia (ACNA), Committee Hansard, 26May2023, p.30.

[34]Name Withheld, Submission 137, pages [1–2].

[35]See, for example, MAX, Submission 146, pages 23–24; IntoWork, Submission 156, p. 3; MTC, Submission 164, pages 4-5; WISE Employment, Submission 169, p. 12; SYC, Submission 189, p. 8; VERTO, Submission 202, p. [10]; Yilabara Solutions, Submission 231, p. 16; Asuria, Submission 246, p. 15; MatchWorks, Submission 263, p. 21.

[36]See, for example, atWork, Submission 210, p. 5; SAEP, Submission 199, p. 11; Western Australian Association for Mental Health (WAAMH), Submission 248, p. 15; Jobs Australia, Submission 185, p.13.

[37]SAEP, Submission 199, p. 11, citing Productivity Commission (2020), Mental Health. Inquiry ReportNo. 95,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[38]See, for example, CoAct, Submission 151, p. 10; SAEP, Submission 199, p.26; Yilabara Solutions, Submission 231, p. 16.

[39]MAX, Submission 146, p. 23.

[40]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 55, 58. See also Ms Ryan, DEWR, Committee Hansard, 3November2022, p. 44; DEWR (2018), Evaluation of jobactive: Final Report, pages 70–73,, viewed 20 November2023.

[41]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 55.

[42]See, for example, WDEA Works, Submission 168, p. 5; SAEP, Submission 199, pages 11, 35; DrMichael McGann, private capacity, Committee Hansard, 14March2023, p. 24; Mrs Kathleen Newcombe, Group CEO, Sarina Russo Job Access (SRJA), Committee Hansard, p. 14. Issues associated with jobseekers remaining on in online services without additional support, and the maximum duration for online services, are discussed in Chapter 10.

[43]See, for example, Asuria, Submission 246, p. 22; Professor Shelley Mallett, Director—Social Policy and Research, Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL), Committee Hansard, 14 March 2023, p. 24; Mrs Karena Newland, CEO, Jobfind Centres Australia (Jobfind), Committee Hansard, 14March2023, p. 54.

[44]See, for example, Dr David O'Halloran, Submission 108, p. [8]; Joblink Plus, Submission 157, p. 12; BSL, Submission 249, pages 9, 46, 48.

[45]See DSS, Submission 192, p. 9; DEWR, Submission 254, pages 54–55.

[46]Workways Australia, Submission 239, pages 15, 23.

[47]Yilabara Solutions, Submission 231, p. 16.

[48]SSI, Submission 193, p. 10.

[49]DSS (2022), New Disability Employment Support Model – Consultation report, p. 8,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[50]Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Provider Claims,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[51]The Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, Medicare bulk billing strengthened as largest investment in 40 years takes effect, Media Release, 1 November 2023.

[52]See, for example, Professor Leila Green, Dr Kylie Stevenson, Dr Kelly Jaunzems, Ms Claire Hanlon and Mr Arthur Hanlon (Professor Green et al), Submission 120, p. [7]; CoAct, Submission 151, p. 10; WISE Employment, Submission 169, p. 12; SSI, Submission 193, p.3; APM, Submission 213, p. 10; MrKittos, Asuria, Committee Hansard, 26May2023, p. 27.

[53]Employment Services Expert Advisory Panel (2018), I Want to Work Employment Services 2020 Report, p.64,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[54]Dr Smith, ACNA, Committee Hansard, 26May2023, p.30.

[55]ACNA, Submission 179, pages 5-6. See also Dr Smith, ACNA, Committee Hansard, 26May2023, p.30.

[56]WISE Employment, Submission 169, p. 12.

[57]ACNA, Submission 179, pages 5-6. See also See, for example, Dr O'Halloran, Submission 108, p. [5]; MrKittos, Asuria, Committee Hansard, 26May2023, p.27.

[58]Enterprise and Training Company (ETC), Submission 133, p.4.

[59]See, for example, The Multicultural Professional Network Ltd (MPN), Submission 99, p. 2; Australian Centre for Career Education (ACCE), Submission 149, p. 8.

9.1[60]MTC, Submission 164, pages 4-5.

[61]CVGT, Submission 106, p. 13.

[62]ACCE, Submission 149, pages 3, 13.

[63]MAX, Submission 146, p. 24.

[64]Associate Professor Siobhan O’Sullivan, private capacity, Committee Hansard, 14 March 2023, p. 8.

[65]MTC, Submission 164, pages 4-5.

9.2[66]Workways, Submission 239, p. 15.

[67]Mr James Muller, General Manager, APM Employment Services (APM), Committee Hansard, 14March2023, p. 56.

[68]See, for example, Ms Eagle, EJA, Committee Hansard, 17May2023, p. 10; DrCassandra Goldie, CEO, ACOSS, Committee Hansard, 17May2023, p. 10.

[69]Ms Catherine Eagle, Principal Solicitor—Welfare Rights and Advocacy Service, EJA, Committee Hansard, 17May2023, p. 5.

[70]Dr Smith, ACNA, Committee Hansard, 26May2023, p. 35.

[71]DSS (2022), New Disability Employment Support Model – Consultation report, p. 9.

[72]Commonwealth of Australia (1996), Reforming Employment Assistance: Helping Australians into Real Jobs– Ministerial Statement by Senator the Hon Senator Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, pages 13, 16.

[73]Productivity Commission (2016), Introducing Competition and Informed User Choice into Human Services: Identifying Sectors for Reform, Preliminary Findings Report, p. 5,, viewed 20 November2023. Referenced in DEWR, Submission 254, p. 61.

[74]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 62. See also DEWR, Submission 254.8, p. [10].

[75]DEWR, Submission 254.8, p. [8].

[76]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 61–62. See also CVGT, Submission 106, p. 7.

[77]Joblink Plus, Submission 157, p. 13.

[78]Mr Kittos, Asuria, Committee Hansard, 26May2023, p.27.

[79]Professor Jeff Borland, Submission 171, p. 6. See also Professor Borland, private capacity, Committee Hansard, 14March2023, p. 6; Dr Victor Quirk, Submission 209, p. 8.

[80]Professor Mark Considine, private capacity, Committee Hansard, 14 March 2023, p. 7.

[81]Institute for Public Policy Research (2023), The smarter state: Between the ‘magic money tree’ and the ‘reform fairy’, p. 15,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[82]Productivity Commission (2017), Introducing Competition and Informed User Choice into Human Services: Reforms to Human Services, pages 2, 5.

[83]BSL (2017), Reforms to human services: response to the Productivity Commission, p. 3,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[84]See, for example, E Patall, H Cooper, and J Robinson (2008), ‘The effects of choice on intrinsic motivation and related outcomes: A meta-analysis of research findings’, Psychological Bulletin, 134(2), p. 270; Institute for Public Policy Research (2023), The smarter state: Between the ‘magic money tree’ and the ‘reform fairy’, pages 15–16; C Sykes (2023), ‘How Australia’s employment services system fails jobseekers: Insights from self-determination theory’, Australian Journal of Labour Economics, 26(1), p. 100.

[85]CoAct, Submission 151, p. 12

[86]Ren McSweeney, NSW Division Member, Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union (AUWU), Committee Hansard, 19 September 2023, p. 5.

[87]Multicultural Australia, Submission 182, p. 19.

[88]Jobs Australia, Submission 185, p. 15. The need for access to good and up-to-date information about what is available, and how and why those services will benefit them was also supported in the submission from WISE Employment, Submission 169, p. 14; Mission Australia, Submission 190, p. 9 MatchWorks, Submission263, p. 26.

[89]Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland (ECCQ), Submission 206, p. 4.

[90]CoAct, Submission 151, p. 12.

[91]Workways, Submission 239, p. 10.

[92]See, for example, ETC, Submission 133, p. 2; National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW), Submission 135, p. [3]; SRJA, Submission 145, p. 19; SSI, Submission 193, p. 3.

[93]EJA, Submission 153.1, p. 7. ACOSS endorsed this view. See ACOSS, Submission 203.1, p. 1.

[94]SAEP, Submission 199, p. 41.

[95]CoAct, Submission 151, p. 12. A similar theme was presented that advocated a consumer driven mechanism be established to help jobseekers to get a job from Dr O'Halloran, Submission 108, p. [8].

[96]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 62-63.

[97]See DEWR, Submission 254, p. 66; Ms Ryan, DEWR, Committee Hansard, 20September2023, p. 46.

[98]Ms Ryan, DEWR, Committee Hansard, 3November2022, p. 53.

[99]Ms Ryan, DEWR, Committee Hansard, 3November2022, p. 45.

[100]See, for example, SRJA, Submission 145, p. 19; ECCQ, Submission 206, p. 4; Dr Quirk, Submission209, pages 8, 9.

[101]atWork, Submission 210, p. 7.

[102]Name Withheld, Submission 160, p. 13.

[103]Professor Green et al, Submission 120, p. [8].

[104]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 60, 62. See also DEWR, Workforce Australia Guideline – Part B: Workforce Australia Services, pages. 22-24.

[105]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 60. See also DEWR, Workforce Australia Guideline – Part B: Workforce Australia Services, p. 11.

[106]DEWR, Submission 254.5, pages 33–34, 35.

[107]National Indigenous Australian Agency (NIAA), The Community Development Program (CDP),, viewed 20 November 2023. See also DEWR, Submission 254.1. pages[1, 6–14].

[108]See, for example, Senator the Hon Katy Gallagher, Minister for Finance (2023), Order for the Production of Document No. 276—Community Development Program, 25 August 2023, p. 68; Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2017), Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census Data, Australia—Community Development Programme Participation, 2900.0main+features101442016, viewed 20November 2023; House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs (2021), Report on Indigenous Participation in Employment and Business, p.63.

[109]DEWR, Submission 254.1. p. [3].

[110]Regional Development Australia (RDA) Kimberley, Submission 105, p. [4].

[111]See DEWR, Submission 254.1. p. [2]; Ms Beneditke Jensen, First Assistant Secretary—Employment Policy and Analytics, DEWR, Committee Hansard, 17May2023, p. 17; NIAA, Submission 176, p. 5; Ms Julie-Ann Guivarra, Deputy CEO, Policy and Program, NIAA, Committee Hansard, 17May2023, p.13.

[112]Mr Grande, NAC, Committee Hansard, 26May2023, p. 44.

[113]See DSS, Social Security Guide: Participation requirements for DSP recipients,, viewed 20 November 2023. Participation requirements are similar to, but typically less onerous than, mutual obligation requirements, and are adapted to the person’s disability. For example, a Disability Support Pension (DSP) recipient may be required to complete set hours of Work for the Dole (WfD), participate in a work experience program, or participate in a rehabilitation program.

[114]Ms Jo Evans, Group Manager—Participation and Family Payments, DSS, Committee Hansard, 26May2023, p. 9.

[115]Dr Louise O’Rance, Assistant Secretary—Data Management and Reporting, DEWR, Committee Hansard, 3November 2022, p. 26.

[116]Mr Jeremy Heywood, President, AUWU, Committee Hansard, 19 September 2023, p. 7. See also Name Withheld, Submission 117, p. [1].

[117]See, for example, Name Withheld, Submission 160, p. 15; ACOSS, Submission 203, pages 19-20; DrSimone Casey, Senior Adviser—Employment, ACOSS, Committee Hansard, 17 May 2023, p. 7; Ren McSweeney, AUWU, 19 September 2023, p. 5.

[118]See, for example, atWork, Submission 210, p. 5; WISE Employment, Submission 169, p. [14].

[119]Mr Corey Irlam, Acting CEO, COTA Australia, Committee Hansard, 19 September 2023, p. 44.

[120]DSS, Submission 192, p. 5; See also Ms Robyn Shannon, Acting Deputy Secretary—Disability and Careers, DSS, Committee Hansard, 26May2023, p.4.

[121]Ms Benedikte Jensen, First Assistant Secretary—Employment Policy and Analytics, DEWR, Committee Hansard, 3November 2022, p. 37.

[122]See DSS, Guide to Social Security, Sickness Allowance,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[123]Ms Shannon, DSS, Committee Hansard, 26May2023, p.10.

[124]See, Name Withheld, Submission 117, p. [1]; Mr Jeremy Heywood, President, AUWU, Committee Hansard, 19 September 2023, p. 7.

[125]Name Withheld, Submission230, p. [1]. See also Name Withheld, Submission 160, pages 21–22.