Bendigo forum attendees call for employment services reform

A FORUM in Bendigo has brought the plight of job seekers to the fore, with attendees overwhelmingly of the opinion the system needed to change. 

Job seekers, support agencies and industry representatives were represented at the event, organised by Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters and shadow employment services minister Ed Husic. 

Saleswoman Kimberley Maxfield called on the politicians to “be real” about the challenges job seekers faced, one of them being the nature of job agencies. 

“Job network providers actually work for the government,” Ms Maxfield said. 

“They are the government’s whip. Unless you actually start being real, nothing will change.”

She said she had been treated like she was a criminal by a job agency, which punished her for missing an appointment. 

Ms Maxfield said she had been at a job interview at the time.

Her experience resonated with other job seekers, many of whom raised a hand when the politicians queried how many other attendees felt they had been treated in a punitive manner by job agencies. 

The jobactive caseload in the Bendigo region was 5808 people at June 30, a Department of Employment spokesperson said. 

The unemployment rate was 4.1 per cent. 

Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said the forum was in response to the number of job seekers contacting her office who were frustrated by the jobactive network. 

“All too often, job seekers are disappointed and feel let down,” she said. 

Mr Husic said the government sought to blame job seekers for difficulties securing work, rather than jobs programs. 

He said almost 90 per cent of Work for the Dole participants didn’t have a full-time job three months after exiting the program. 

“Results after a full year show that 28.9 per cent of participants were in employment around three months following exit from a jobactive Work for the Dole activity,” a department spokesperson said. 

“This is 5.8 percentage points higher than for people in Job Services Australia who exited Work for the Dole in the 12 months to June 2015, of which 23.1 per cent were in employment three months later.”

Maiden Gully man Neil Gemmill, 54, said he struggled with the employment services sector after being made redundant several years ago. 

“I wasn’t eligible for any Centrelink support because of my wife’s income,” he said. 

“This locked me out of many job service provider agencies. 

“It was very degrading – I had worked the same job for more than 25 years and suddenly had no purpose in life. I was very depressed.”

Job agencies involved in the jobactive network have been contacted for comment.