Non-profits call for better Services Australia

CPSU

A network of non-profits, including the union for Services Australia workers, the Community and Public Sector Union, Anglicare Australia and the Australian Council of Social Service have written to Labor and the Coalition calling on them to commit to fixing key problems with the social security system.

Services Australia workers do an incredible job delivering support for our community in the most difficult circumstances. But Services Australia needs to be better.

With cost-of-living pressures increasing, wages stagnant, and insecure work continuing to rise, Australians need a decent social security system and a properly-resourced agency to deliver it.

Under the Morrison Government, insecure work in the agency responsible for Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support has increased every year, with over 30% of Services Australia workers now in some form of insecure employment.

Privatised workers cost taxpayers more, but are often paid less than public servants, while the labour-hire firms that employ them cash in eye-watering contracts.

What the Morrison Government’s privatisation of Services Australia jobs means is less training and less security for workers, higher turnover, more time spent fixing mistakes for permanent staff, more errors, and real delays for the community.

The changes outlined in the framework would make our social security system robust, fair and equitable. It is supported by the Australian Council of Social Services, Anglicare Australia, St Vincent de Paul, Unions NSW, Per Capita, Father Bob Maguire, Reverend Bill Crews, the Wayside Chapel, Fair Go for Pensioners, Homelessness NSW, People with Disability Australia, the ACTU and the CPSU.

Under this framework, we are calling on the major parties to:

  • Commit to developing a respectful and compassionate social security system, including by implementing the Raise the Rate recommendations.
  • Increase resources for phone and face to face services and make access easier.
  • Remove breach powers from private JobActive providers and return them to Services Australia.
  • Redesign the debt recovery process so that it is fair and humane, allowing staff to exercise discretion, and reinstate the statute of limitations for debt recovery.
  • Abolish the cashless debit card and income quarantining methods.
  • Increase staffing numbers for the Indigenous Services business line.
  • Hire more social workers so they can fulfil their case management role supporting vulnerable members of the community, not just process claims.
  • Rebuild in-house capacity and expertise of Services Australia by converting insecure workers to secure APS jobs, with proper training, where they can build up experience.

It’s time to stop the privatisation of Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support and ensure a strong and publicly funded social security system that is accessible to all.

Quotes attributable to CPSU National Secretary, Melissa Donnelly:

“These commitments outlined in our framework should be simple and straightforward. Australians deserve to be able to rely on Services Australia to deliver a social security system that treats them with dignity, compassion, and respect.

“The way a government runs Services Australia, and the social security system, makes a real difference to all Australians.

“Services Australia workers provide essential services that every Australian relies on. Instead of cutting secure jobs and degrading services, we want the government to build a better Services Australia and a better social security system.”

Quotes attributable to Anglicare Australia Executive Director, Kasy Chambers

“The people working on the frontline are doing their best, but Services Australia could do better. That’s why Anglicare Australia has joined this call for an overhaul of the system.

“We need to raise the rate of government payments. We need to stop private contractors from punishing people for no reason. And we need to end failing programs like the cashless debit card.

“Instead, we’re calling for a fair debt recovery system, better trained staff, and more social workers at Services Australia. We also need to invest in face-to-face services and make it easier for people to get help when they need it.

“It’s time to build a safety net that that actually helps people instead of punishing them.”

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