Jobseekers need better support

October 25 2005 - A new report from the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Melbourne Citymission and Hanover Welfare Services concludes that Australia's most disadvantaged job seekers are being given a raw deal under the Federal Government's Personal Support Programme (PSP).

The report highlights the high level of disadvantage experienced by PSP participants:

  • 50% have been homeless in the past 5 years
  • 70% have year 11 or less as their highest level of education
  • 78% suffer from some type of mental health problem
  • their average length of unemployment (before entering PSP) is two and a half years
  • they are five times as likely as the general population to live alone

According to the report's author, Daniel Perkins from the Brotherhood of St Laurence, 70% of participants would like to be working or studying, but low PSP funding, poor availability of free or low cost services and long waiting lists severely limit PSP's ability to connect people to required support services.

"PSP is crucial as a program helping the most disadvantaged job seekers to address severe personal barriers," said Daniel Perkins.

"But lack of resources means PSP clients, many of whom have experienced recent homelessness and suffer from some type of mental illness, have less access to services and support than other job seekers.

"PSP agencies told us they are able to allocate a maximum of $120 per client each year to pay for help such as counselling and training, which these people desperately need.

"In comparison Job Network providers receive $1350 for additional services per disadvantaged client, despite this group having less severe barriers to finding work.

"PSP case managers can identify people's needs but limited funding means they have difficulties providing the required assistance in 90 per cent of cases.

"This harshly limits people's opportunity to deal with problems and gain skills which would help them move into education and employment."

Daniel Perkins said that the recent small increase from the Federal Government in PSP funding was unlikely to make a significant difference, given that most providers are currently running the programme at a deficit and/or cross-subsidising it from other programmes.

"PSP clients deserve better assistance than this. We should be investing in them, supporting them, giving them work experience and access to accredited training," Mr Perkins said.