17 January 2022, Guardian Australia, Luke Henriques-Gomes. Access the full article here.

People are being told they will have their benefits cut if they don’t attend job agency appointments, as government resists calls to pause ‘mutual obligation’

A woman with chronic illnesses and an immunocompromised partner and the single mother of a toddler are among those being told they’ll have their benefits cut if they don’t attend face-to-face job agency appointments, despite an unprecedented surge of Covid cases.

Welfare mutual obligations, which have been suspended in Covid-affected areas for much of the pandemic, were reintroduced nationally in late October. Last week the government rebuffed calls to pause them, despite soaring infection numbers.

Guardian Australia has confirmed that while some job agencies are allowing people subject to mutual obligations to meet their requirements from home – by conducting meetings by phone or online, for example – others are insisting participants attend in person.

Given this is an office with a bunch of random people going in and out all day, it’s scaring me a lot

– Person forced into mutual obligations

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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