Sanctions Nothing New

  • Peter McCardle
Associate Minister of Social Services, Work and Income (Work and Income)

"Sanctions on job seekers who fail to take part in Community Work are not a new idea, and have been part of work assistance schemes for some time. However the new sanctions will be lighter in parts and more flexible than the current ones", the Associate Minister of Social Services, Work and Income said today.

Peter McCardle was commenting on claims made following the release of the Regulations which will be part of the Community Wage from October 1.

"In future there will be three tiers of sanctions for different levels of work failure. Serious misbehaviour, such as refusing to turn up at all, may lead to serious penalties. Lighter offences can lead to lighter sanctions. Turning up late, for example, may lead to an 8 per cent of benefit for the first two hours, rising to a higher level for two or more hours (the potential penalty attached to current work schemes is a flat 20 per cent cut - but that penalty has hardly been imposed).

Mr McCardle said consequences for failing to attend, or persistent misbehaviour such as not turning up at a work site, have been part of the Community Taskforce since 1991. Sanctions have also been applicable to a range of other work and training schemes, for things such as not turning up for an interview, since April last year.

"Community Taskforce is essentially the predecessor and model of the Community Work projects which will come into operation after October 1. It has proven extremely successful, helping over 70,000 job seekers, and been expanding rapidly. Its target group is the long term unemployed, many of whom lack any practical work skills, nor any recent experience of the everyday workforce.

"The aim of Community Work, as with Community Taskforce, is to duplicate as closely as possible the experience of the paid workplace, including consequences for poor performance.

"The sanctions changes will better enable providers of work experience or training to help job seekers to develop good basic work habits required in the paid workforce.

"If the providers do not want to sanction job seekers who are persistently late, that is up to them. Sanctions are a last-resort action available for providers aiming to develop good work and attendance skills.

"Experience has shown that firm sanctions are necessary in some occasions, and are effective when used. However the fact is that they have been used very rarely. Of the 70,000 people who have been through and benefited from Community Taskforce, the vast majority have not needed any encouragement in the form of sanctions to take part. CTF can be compulsory, but most people take part voluntarily. I am sure that will continue when Community Work begins.

"If under the new rules there is a dispute about whether or not an offence occurred, the benefit of the doubt would be given to the beneficiary, and there would be no benefit cut. But whenever there is a problem it is expected that the first means of resolution would be negotiation rather than confrontation. In most cases that has been successful to date", Mr McCardle said.