A new system of sanctions for people who fail to look for work while claiming Income Support has been proposed by the Minister for Social Security.
The changes complement the increased help to find paid work available through Back to Work and the significant investment made by the government to help locally qualified jobseekers into work.
The new regulations will:
- strengthen the department’s ability to reduce or remove Income Support payments for those jobseekers who repeatedly fail to look for work, or fail to fully participate in training or work placements organised by the department
- provide a new sanction to reduce the Income Support available to someone who leaves paid work without a good reason.
The Minister for Social Security, Senator Francis Le Gresley, said that the vast majority of jobseekers claiming Income Support would be unaffected by the changes, which are designed to provide a strong deterrent to the small minority of Income Support claimants who do not do enough to find work.
Under the new proposals, any income support claimant who is registered as actively seeking work who fails to undertake jobseeking activities will be issued with a written warning which will remain in force for a minimum of one year. Each further breach following that first warning will result in increasing financial penalties and the eventual loss of all benefit until the individual proves that they are genuinely looking for work. Anyone who leaves a job without a good reason will not be able to claim their Income Support adult component for 13 weeks.
Senator Le Gresley said: “There is an enormous amount of support available to help locally-qualified jobseekers increase their chances of employment, whether that is through training, job seeking assistance at the department’s Job Club or through our direct engagement with local employers.
“Staying unemployed and relying on Income Support is not a lifestyle choice. The new regulations will send a clear message to the few who may be tempted to think it is. We will do everything we can to help them find work, but that failing to uphold their end of the bargain will result in a cut to their Income Support payments.”
“The Department will not be penalising anyone who genuinely cannot find paid work, is exempt from doing so or has a good reason for leaving a job, such as being made redundant. Anyone who is thinking of leaving their job and may consequently need to claim benefit should speak with our advisers about their options before making a decision to give up work.”
Senator Le Gresley said that Income Support is an in-work benefit, designed to help people in times of need and to encourage self-sufficiency. “The recent rises in unemployment have thrown into even sharper focus the need for increased support for all jobseekers and stronger penalties for people who do not seek work. The intention of these changes is to protect public funds so that they can be properly targeted to people who are genuinely in need of help.”
The new sanctions for jobseekers and individuals leaving employment are provided by Income Support regulations that were lodged with the States today. They are due to be debated on 8 October 2013.