Government urged to suspend mutual obligations of job seekers amid COVID-19 outbreak

Australian Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston told SBS News in a statement that the federal government “reacted quickly” when lockdowns impacted Australians seeking work or employment. training as needed – adding that there are currently no blockages or other restrictions.

Lindy Saville, 62, lives on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. She is currently out of work and relies on social assistance benefits to survive.

While looking for a job, as part of her mutual obligations, she has to volunteer 15 hours per week.

Lindy Saville (left), with her husband Steve Ellis.  Ms. Saville is concerned about contracting COVID-19 while still being required to enter into mutual obligations.

Source: Provided


“I think it’s absolutely insane that they send people of all ages, especially over 60s, to those environments where you can’t know the [infection] status of persons, ”Ms. Saville told SBS News.

“I am triple vaccinated but I am extremely worried to be outside and among the others.

Ms Saville said she was concerned about being infected with COVID-19 while taking mutual obligations and passing it on to her husband.

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Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, mutual obligations put the community at risk.

“Around 900,000 people [across Australia] are subject to mutual obligations, job search, participation in the Work for the Dole program, potential participation [face-to-face] job interviews, ”said Dr. Goldie.

“It is not appropriate for people to be subject to mutual obligations. In this environment where the severe global pandemic is hitting very hard right now, the government must do the right thing.

“About one in three people receiving social security of working age has some sort of partial capacity to work. It can mean a disability or some kind of chronic illness.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Services.

Source: Provided


“In some cases you can get an exemption, but a lot of people don’t and they’re immunocompromised. It is essential that they are not forced to go to the workplace in a way that creates risks for them.

The national disability rights organization PWDA has also raised similar concerns.

“People with disabilities are one of the most vulnerable people in the community right now. Time and time again we have seen the government forget about people with disabilities, ”Giancarlo de Vera, senior policy director at PWDA, told SBS News.

“And it is absolutely reprehensible that the government does not think that the suspension of mutual obligations for people with disabilities [is necessary]. “

The Australian government has suspended job seekers’ mutual obligations during shutdowns last year.

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“We are effectively stranded in many parts of the community right now,” Dr Goldie said.

“The federal government has said it will leave it up to individual employment service providers to decide whether or not people should attend face-to-face interviews or participate in programs like Work for the Dole,” a- she declared.

She says ACOSS does not approve of this approach.

“We don’t support this kind of case-by-case approach. There is enough anxiety, confusion and distress in the community, ”said Dr. Goldie.

“The government denies the reality of what is happening in the Australian community.

Minister Ruston said anyone who is sick, whether related to COVID or any other illness, needs to self-isolate or care for an isolated person can apply for an exemption from the mutual obligation requirements.

She added: “The Morrison government has done more for Australians by being tough than any other government in increasing the permanent JobSeeker rate and related payments by the highest amount in 30 years, as well as providing billions dollars in emergency support payments, whether through JobKeeper, the Coronavirus supplement, or the COVID disaster payment.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, the federal government has responded quickly to changing circumstances where state health imposed lockdowns and restrictions on the movement of people impacted Australians’ ability to seek work or undergo training as part of the mutual obligation requirements.

“At the moment, there is no containment or restriction on the movement of people.”

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