Labor quietly dissolving work for dole scheme

Giving taxpayers' money to people who haven't earned it sounds just fine to a Leftist government

The flagship work-for-the-dole program has been quietly slashed by more than 60 per cent by the Gillard government, with only 9151 long-term unemployed now in the politically charged program.

Federal Labor has consistently rejected suggestions it would abolish the scheme, designed by the Howard government as the centrepiece of its bid to ensure welfare recipients contribute something in return for their benefits. But it is disappearing quietly, with the program losing more than 3000 participants in the final eight months of last year.

On April 7 last year, there were 12,695 people in work-for-the-dole schemes. On December 31, there were 9151 jobseekers either placed or expected to start a work-for-the-dole activity. This was down from 22,362 in April 2005, under the Howard government. Since July 1, 2009, there have been 32,168 jobseekers placed in one or more work-for-the-dole activities.

Employment Participation Minister Kate Ellis yesterday defended the dwindling of the program, arguing that the government was not fixated on keeping it as the main pathway to work, citing training and community volunteer work as alternatives.

"Our government has moved away from a 'one-size-fits-all' approach, so as to allow jobseekers to access a range of work experience options, including structured vocational training and community volunteer work as well as the work-for-the-dole program," she said.

"Our focus is on assisting jobseekers to access a range of education and training opportunities to give them the skills they need to find sustainable employment in the future."

Opposition employment participation spokeswoman Sussan Ley said the government was seeking to dismantle the program by slashing places month after month. "This is Labor's death by a thousand cuts," she said. "We warned a year ago the Rudd-Gillard government was watering down the Coalition's mutual obligation principle for those who are unemployed."

Ms Ley said the program was critically underfunded, with too few work options to build up skills where really needed. It also needed to be applied far earlier than after 12 months' unemployment under Labor, which doubled the threshold set by the Howard government.

Ms Ley said the current numbers in the scheme were "unrealistic, particularly with the number of long-term unemployed blowing out by around 90,000 people in the past two years". "When the Coalition introduced the program, most were required to undertake an activity after six months. Now people go in after 12 months," she said.

The types of activities people do on work for the dole vary widely, according to the Gillard government. Two examples included a community gardening project that provided training in nursery practices, and the remodelling and construction of memorial display areas for a children's and Chinese burial area.


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