Workforce Australia: Uproar over new points-based welfare system

Alarm bells are ringing over a new Centrelink system that has been dubbed “the Hunger Games crossed with Black Mirror”.

A looming Centrelink change has been described as ‘the Hunger Games crossed with Black Mirror’, with welfare recipients worried about the potential ramifications it could have.

From July 1, the process of mutual obligations, tasks, activities, job interviews and searches that a person had to complete to receive their social benefits will be abolished and replaced by the activation system points-based (PBAS).

While many are happy to see an end to the cumbersome system of mutual obligations, some fear that the PBAS will bring a whole new set of problems for Centrelink users.

To continue receiving benefits, welfare recipients must receive 100 points and complete at least five job searches each month.

There is a list of over 30 tasks and activities that each have their own point value.

But questions have been raised about the varying value of points for different tasks and how some people might struggle to reach the required total.

Programs like PaTH Internship, the National Work Experience Program, and Launch into Work earn 25 points per week, enough to reach the 100 total.

But other activities like full-time Work for the Dole, the Adult Migrant English Program, and Skills for Education and Employment are worth 20 points per week, which means those involved have to take on tasks. to make up the remaining 20 points.

Other activities include five points for five hours of paid work, 20 points for attending a job interview, and 10 points for serving in the Defense Force Reserve (at least one weekend per month).

Moving for a job is the only task that offers the full 100 points in one go.

If an individual has any additional points left after reaching their monthly total of 100, they can be banked for the next month up to half (50) of their point goal.

Welfare recipients have been warned they could have their payments suspended and receive a demerit if their points target or minimum job searches are not met.

The Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) said the PBAS made up ‘up to 11’ mutual bonds and was ‘the Hunger Games crossed with Black Mirror’.

“Using technology to ‘gamify’ famine points (score them or lose your payout) is morally offensive to basic human decency,” he said in a statement.

“It’s not the design of a humane welfare system – it’s the design of a digital workhouse set up to brutalize people in desperate economic need and push them out of the system and into poverty. street.”

Concerns have also been raised about the ability of some people to meet these requirements.

The Department for Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) has advised that the points target or job search minimum may be reduced depending on a person’s personal circumstances.

It could also involve the value of certain tasks being increased or additional activities being created as “activity bonuses”.

PBAS falls under DESE’s new employment service, Workforce Australia, which replaces jobactive.

Workforce Australia will include an online or in-person service for users to complete and report their PBAS points.

Workforce Australia Online is for ‘work-ready’ jobseekers on income support who are able to manage their search through DESE schemes.

Social assistance recipients who need more support will be assigned an employment service provider who will offer more tailored services.

But there is confusion over how these changes will play out less than a month before they take effect.

The AUWU said it feared another “robodebt-like disaster”.

“The AUWU Advocacy Team receives a large number of reports from members telling us that the system has not been properly explained to them,” said Advocacy Coordinator Raquel Araya.

“We are trying to master this system so that we can advise those who contact us, and we still do not have clarity from the department on exactly how reporting will work, how issues will be addressed or resolved and whether Centrelink has the appropriate capacity to cope with the increased volume of call center requests. »

DESE said Workforce Australia was informed by “extensive collaboration” of more than 1,400 stakeholders, national and internal research and “intensive user-centred design”.