Chesters, Cox slam government job seeker changes

MANY high-profile Bendigo people, including politicians and councillors, have labelled government job seeker changes as unfair and cruel, saying it will do little to help the unemployed find work. 

The new job placement program, to begin on July 1, 2015, will force job seekers to look for 40 jobs a month and perform up to 25 hours of community service.

Details of the Abbott government's three-year, $5.1 billion job placement program were released on Monday.

Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters believes the strategy won't lead to more jobs - rather it will punish those who are already down. 

"This plan is not workable for the region's residents," she said.

"There are more job seekers than there are jobs - especially in smaller towns like Heathcote. 

“In return for receiving support, of course young people should complete certain duties and look for work.

 “But to force someone who is receiving absolutely no government support to apply for 40 jobs every four weeks is counter-productive, cruel and unnecessary.”

Ms Chesters called on the government to create a jobs plan for Australia.

She said there was a lack of secure, entry-level youth employment opportunities in central Victoria and something needed to be done. 

"The vast majority of people without jobs are desperate to find work but it is about finding appropriate jobs for their skill levels," she said. 

"If this goes ahead, we will see an increase in people couch surfing and seeking relief help. 

"It will break the spirit of those looking for work rather than improving skills."

City of Greater Bendigo councillor Peter Cox said all levels of government needed to resource job seekers rather than blame them for being out of work.

He said the fundamental issue with unemployment was that there were not enough jobs for the people who wanted to work.

"Job creation must be the thrust of any employment program, not penalties," he said. 

Cr Cox said educational courses in Bendigo must relate to the local economy and be targeted to fill vacancies and voluntary work should be aligned with future opportunities. 

“For young people it must be education and skills development," he said. 

"Mature age job-seekers, in particular, need to be encouraged to analyse their skills to see if they could fill gaps in the employment market through self employment, but they need to be fully resourced if they are going to succeed.

"(Also), when work for the dole projects are being developed job seekers could be involved in planning them, determining social outcomes and community benefit," he said. 

"This then reinforces the contribution they can make and as a result build skills and confidence in what they can achieve together.”

The City of Greater Bendigo will host a job seekers forum on Wednesday, July 30 at 11am at Eaglehawk Town Hall to discuss Bendigo’s Economic Development Strategy. A joint submission will then be presented to council.


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