This response is from a woman in her 60s living in Sydney. She has applied for the DSP but her claim was rejected. She has requested that her name be withheld.

My job network provider gets an alert on their system and they harass me to come for interviews trying to tell me I cannot do volunteer work.

Survey responses

Which payment do you get from Centrelink?JobSeeker
Do you ever worry about losing your payment?Yes
Provider namesAPM
Do ‘mutual’ obligations activities make your mental or physical health worse?Yes
Have you been able to access programs or services through a job agency or other provider that helped to improve your physical or mental health?Yes
Have you ever experienced mistreatment from a provider or other organisation because of activities you were required to do?Yes, I have been bullied or abused
Have you ever had paid work, study commitments or caring duties at the same time as being required to do ‘mutual’ obligations?Yes, I have had paid work while doing ‘mutual’ obligations; Yes, I have been a carer for an adult; Yes, I have been a student
Do you have any paid work?No

If you were able to speak directly to the politicians who decide what we need to do to get a Centrelink payment, what would you say to them?

As a way of saving money you have effectively criminalised unemployment and turned the job network providers into probation and parole offices staffed by quasi police officers. It is a completed waste of money for governments who proport that welfare must be sustainable. 5% unemployed was considered full employment meaning that level was kept at this point in order to keep wages low and inflation down. That means that roughly around 600,000 Australians are deliberately kept below poverty payments as a economic management strategy. Abolish Mutual Obligations there is plenty of research to show they obstruct and impeded peoples ability to find and secure employment. Most employers will hire people through networks or online job advertisements. That makes job network providers a completed waste of money and are redundant. Abolish them. Small hubs attached to Centrelink for people who need support and help to get into the workforce, but these must be voluntary. Raise jobseeker payments to a liveable amount. The private will never be able to provide employment to all people who are able to work. A voluntary job guarantee program that provides quality training and skills to people at all levels of government for people who cannot find work in the private sector but could cross over when the private sector increases it’s labour force is better than a pool of unemployed people doing useless activities that keep people busy and do not provide transferable skills.

Do you want to say anything about your experience with Centrelink or living on payments?

I usually do volunteer work for 12 months. Each time at the end of my contract I have my volunteer forms filled in and uploaded to Centrelink. These forms sit unprocessed for weeks. At the end of my contract my job network provider gets an alert on their system and they harass me to come for interviews trying to tell me I cannot do volunteer work. I usually have to ring Centrelink multiple times to have my volunteer forms processed and coded correctly into the system.

Do you want to say anything about your experiences of being disabled in the workforce and/or on Centrelink payments?

Ridiculed and mocked by Centrelink allied health worker when talking about my Osteoarthritis. He suggested it wasn’t that bad and that I could work like lots of other people. He seemed to think that physiotherapy was some kind of magical cure and that I would have access to the public hospital system regularly without having to pay and within easy reach of public transport. I told him to look it up and he realised had made a mistake but failed to apologise. I was forced to walk up several flights of stairs. Mocked by Centrelink worker for having Osteoarthritis during phone call as she had the condition and still worked and claimed that I could too. I pointed out that I have a severe form that is rarer than most and includes all my major joints including my jaw which locks at times. When Commonwealth Rehabilitation Services were a job network provider they wanted to hand out Gym vouches to me. Not only is that dangerous to me it’s not applicable.

What effect do ‘mutual’ obligations have on your wellbeing?

I have degenerative disc disease, and severe Osteoarthritis throughout most of my body, including hands and jaw. My work is exclusively sitting in from of a computer doing repetitive work transcribing documents or identifying animals in camera traps. This causes pain in my spine, hips hands and neck.

Has a provider ever caused a problem with your payment?

Respondents may select more than one option

Yes, and my payment was suspended

What is the worst activity you have had to do?

All day group training on preparing for work. It was to be indefinite, but fortunately a new job agency manager took me out of the group saying it was not suitable for me.

Do you want to say anything about your experience with your provider?

I am 63 years old and have a disability and I was sick with the flu and had an interview with my provider. I rang before the interview to organise another time and was promptly given a new one only 2 days later. I rang to say I was seriously ill and would not be able to make the interview. Case manager said I needed a medical certificate but I was too sick to get to a medical centre, I don’t drive and had no-one to drive me. Case manager said I should ask my neighbours. I was bedridden for seven days and had post viral fatigue for seven days. I had a home doctor come to my house and was given a medical certificate only for three days. My payment was suspended.

Placement experience – volunteering

Host organisation nameAustralian Museum
Do you think the activities you did during the placement were useful or important?Yes
Do you think these activities produced something valuable for the host organisation?Yes
Do you think these activities produced something valuable for the community more broadly?Yes
Did you learn something valuable or gain skills that you think make you more employable? No
Was the host organisation connected to your job agency?No
Do you want to say anything about your experience with this volunteering placement?This is a rare volunteering placement opportunity with a relatively good organisation.
Did you organise the volunteering placement yourself?Yes, I contacted the organisation and arranged the placement
Did you participate in volunteering by choice?No, when I reached the Work for the Dole phase I asked to do volunteering instead to fulfil my Annual Activity Requirement
Did you enjoy doing the volunteering activities?Not sure
What type of work or activities did you do?Data transcriptions
Did the volunteering placement help you get a job?No

Placement experience – training

Training organisation nameWestern Sydney University
Do you think the person or people running the training were appropriately qualified?Yes
Did the training suit your skill level?Yes
Do you think the training activities were useful or important?Yes
Did you learn something valuable from the training that you think makes you more employable? Yes
Was the course with a TAFE or a private training provider?Uni
Was the training organisation connected to your job agency?No
Did you organise the course yourself?Yes, I contacted the organisation and arranged the course
Did you enjoy the training activities?Yes
Did you participate in training by choice?I was on austudy and moved to Newstart. Labor government at the time allowed you to finish your university studies on Newstart if they were professional.
What type of training or activities did you do?Qualification in psychology
Did the training you received help you get a job?Yes
What do you think is the quality of the training you received?High

Employment services survey

The Punishment for Profit report is based on hundreds of responses to surveys conducted by the Antipoverty Centre. This research is ongoing. If you are in Workforce Australia, Disability Employment Services or a similar program, we welcome any information you are able to share about your experiences.

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