Media Release by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Government Welcomes Ombudsman’s Report

Acting Minister for Family and Community Services, Larry Anthony today welcomed the release of the Ombudsman’s report into the administration of Social Security breach penalties.

“The Ombudsman acknowledges in his report the considerable work recently done by Centrelink and the Department of Family and Community Services to resolve many of the issues his investigation identifies.

“Breach numbers have been declining since June 2001 because of recent initiatives targetting the most vulnerable jobseekers, most undertaken as a result of the Centrelink review of breaches last year.

“These changes have lead to around one-third fewer breach penalties during 2001-02 than the previous financial year.

“The report makes 29 recommendations, the vast majority of which have already been implemented, with others currently being considered.

“In fact, we reject only one recommendation which suggests the requirement to attend interviews with Centrelink or Job Network providers should not be included in activity agreements.

“While activity agreements do not and will not include a requirement to attend Centrelink interviews, they may include the requirement for a job seeker to go to an interview with their Job Network provider.

“Accessing employment assistance through the Job Network is an important part of a Centrelink customer’s participation requirements and demonstrates they are genuinely trying to increase their prospects of getting a job.

“It is important to note that the vast majority of jobseekers have no problem fulfilling their mutual obligation requirements. More than 86 per cent of jobseekers were not breached last financial year.

“The Government has consistently looked at ways to ensure that our most vulnerable job seekers are protected and the genuine job seekers get the help they need while continuing to make sure that a strong mutual obligation system remains in place,”  Mr Anthony said.