7.37 This section outlines the Australian Government’s employment services system, and employment assistance provided to mature age job seekers. The ALRC recommends that DEEWR ensure that training tools are made available to employment services provider staff about the barriers to work faced by mature aged persons.
7.38 Job Services Australia (JSA) is the Australian Government’s employment services system. General employment services are delivered by JSA providers: a mix of for-profit and not-for-profit organisations that are contracted by DEEWR under Employment Services Deeds. The Disability Employment Services (DES) system provides employment services for job seekers with disability. JSA and DES providers assist individual job seekers to find paid work, and also connect job seekers to skills development and training opportunities. Indigenous employment services are available through the JSA network, in conjunction with the Indigenous Employment Program (IEP) and, in remote areas with poor labour markets, Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP).
7.39 Australian Government employment services are generally provided to persons in receipt of an income support payment. Job seekers receiving activity-tested payments, such as Newstart Allowance, are required to connect with a JSA provider as a condition of fulfilling this test. Job seekers who receive non-activity-tested payments, such as Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment, may also volunteer to use JSA or DES.
Employment services reform
7.40 A number of submissions to this Inquiry argued that the employment services system requires thorough reform in respect of both the resources and assistance provided to disadvantaged and long-term unemployed job seekers. Such comprehensive reform is beyond the scope of this Inquiry.
7.41 The contract arrangements for JSA, as well as one arm of DES, expire on 30 June 2015. The Australian Government has begun consultations about potential reform of the employment services system in advance of this new contracting period.
7.42 This consultation process provides opportunities for reform of the employment services system to provide better support for mature age job seekers. The ALRC agrees with NWRN that it is essential that ‘older job seekers and their representatives and advocates have the opportunity to have their say in the improvements needed in employment services’ in this consultation process.
Accessing job search assistance
7.43 There may be a waiting period between the date a person becomes unemployed and the date they become eligible to receive income support. Access to Australian Government employment services is generally linked to receipt of income support. This means that there will often be a delay before a person can begin to receive help to find a job.
7.44 For example, persons claiming the main unemployment payment, Newstart Allowance, may be subject to a ‘liquid assets waiting period’ before they will qualify for payment. If a person has liquid assets above a ‘maximum reserve amount’, this waiting period will apply. The maximum reserve amount for a single person with no dependants is $2,500. For a person who is a member of a couple or who has a dependent child, the amount is $5,000. The maximum reserve amounts will double from 1 July 2013. Depending on the amount of liquid assets a person possesses above the maximum reserve amount, the liquid assets waiting period may range from one week to a maximum of 13 weeks.
7.45 Early employment assistance may be particularly beneficial for mature age job seekers. As the Tax Review noted, ‘skills and the likelihood of gaining employment decline if people are out of work for long periods’. A person with liquid assets above the maximum reserve amount may wait up to 13 weeks before accessing such assistance. However, the liquid assets waiting period is a matter affecting all those seeking Newstart Allowance, and therefore wider than the scope of this Inquiry. The ALRC suggests that waiting periods for access to employment services could be further reviewed when considering reform of the employment services system for the new contracting period from 1 July 2013.
Job search assistance and job seeker obligations
7.46 JSA and DES providers are required by the Employment Services Code of Practice to provide individualised job search assistance to job seekers. The level of employment assistance job seekers receive is determined by an assessment of their level of disadvantage in the labour market. Disadvantage is assessed based on a range of factors including age, gender, recency of work experience and vocational qualifications. Persons assessed as being relatively more disadvantaged receive more intensive assistance.
7.47 To satisfy their activity test requirements, Newstart Allowance recipients are generally required by social security law to enter into an Employment Pathway Plan (EPP) with an employment services provider. An EPP sets out a mix of vocational and non-vocational activities that a job seeker must participate in as a condition of payment. The activities contained in an EPP are intended to improve a person’s employment prospects. In setting the terms of an EPP, a person’s age, as well as characteristics including education, experience, skills, physical condition and health, must be taken into consideration.
7.48 The EPP is intended to be ‘individually tailored’ and negotiated between the job seeker and the provider. However, commentators have argued that this tailoring and negotiation may not occur in practice. In an analysis of employment assistance reforms between 1998 and 2008, Professor Mark Considine, Associate Professor Jenny Lewis and Dr Siobhan O’Sullivan concluded that frontline employment services staff ‘do not exercise signiﬁcant discretion in tailoring services and the trend over time is towards high levels of standardisation for both staff and jobseekers’.
7.49 The apparent disjunction between law and practice in the tailoring of employment assistance has implications for mature age job seekers, as for other job seekers. Mature age job seekers may have particular needs for tailoring of their EPPs, given the increased likelihood of acquiring some degree of disability with age, and the increased likelihood of their having caring responsibilities for people with disability, the frail aged and grandchildren. These considerations may also require that a mature age person has access to the available exemptions or suspensions from EPPs.
Employment assistance for mature age job seekers
7.50 During this Inquiry, the ALRC heard concerns that mature age job seekers are not receiving the appropriate employment assistance needed to re-engage in the workforce. Some stakeholders submitted that employment services providers were insufficiently responsive to the needs of mature age job seekers. For example, the Acting Commonwealth Ombudsman reported that some mature age persons expressed a ‘sense that their age means they are not treated with respect’ by employment services providers. Olderworkers, a mature age job board, submitted that, in a recent survey of its registered job seekers,
approximately 50% of respondents were accessing JSA and over 90% stated they were unhappy with services provided. Many of the respondents stated they had actually been advised they were wasting their time looking for a job at their age. They also stated they had felt age discrimination from many of the workers in these organisations … Some had actually been compared to the recruiter’s mother or father. Some had been asked why they wanted to work at their age.
7.51 These difficulties may be compounded for mature age job seekers with multiple barriers to work. For example, the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) submitted that its members ‘often hear complaints that DES providers do not have sufficient understanding of the issues related to disability’. FECCA reported that its consultations with CALD communities across Australia had found a ‘low level of cultural competency … among Job Services Australia staff’.
7.52 The Australian Government has recognised that mature age job seekers may benefit from additional employment assistance. From 1 January 2013, the Mature Age Participation—Job Seeker Assistance Program provides increased support to some job seekers aged 50 and over who are registered with Job Services Australia. This program will provide approximately 6,700 mature age job seekers with intensive employment assistance.
7.53 The ALRC does not make specific recommendations for additional job search assistance to be provided to mature age job seekers. As the NWRN pointed out, age is only one indicator of potential need for increased assistance. While supporting appropriate recognition of the needs and preferences of mature age job seekers, NWRN argued that
the employment service system should provide high quality support for all job seekers, and [NWRN] would be alarmed if … [it] were to be fragmented according to age as opposed to vulnerabilities and identified barriers to employment. Additional high quality, tailored and individualised supports need to be provided, for example, to young job seekers, Indigenous job seekers and those who are long term unemployed.
7.54 However, the ALRC does recommend that DEEWR provide employment services provider staff with training tools about the barriers to work faced by mature age job seekers. Stakeholders supported this idea when proposed in the Discussion Paper. In the Employment Services Code of Practice, the Australian Government has undertaken to support employment services providers by ‘evaluating and sharing best practice to enable continuous improvement in the delivery of employment services’. The provision of training tools by the Australian Government is in keeping with this statement.
7.55 The ALRC notes the recommendation made by the Advisory Panel on Employment Services Administration and Accountabilitythat the employment services workforce be professionalised. Such professionalisation would include ‘agreed knowledge, skills and competency standards for provider staff … [and] recommended minimum qualifications’. Improving the ability of employment services provider staff to engage appropriately with mature age job seekers accords with the more general goal of improving staff competence.
7.56 This recommendation will also promote better compliance with social security law, by improving the ability of employment services provider staff to tailor EPPs appropriately for mature age job seekers.
7.57 This recommendation could be integrated into existing systems so as not to unduly increase the compliance burden on providers. For example, access to training about mature age job seekers could be provided as part of the existing suite of ‘Learning Centre Training modules’ provided by DEEWR. For example, an online cultural awareness training package in relation to Indigenous job seekers has recently been developed. Similarly, in August 2012 a Mental Health Capacity Building
e-learning package was released to assist employment services provider staff to identify and support people living with mental illness. The mental health training package was developed with input from mental health organisations, psychiatric rehabilitation services and employment service provider peak bodies. A similar package, drawing on relevant expertise, may be beneficial for mature age persons.
Recommendation 7–2 To enhance the capacity of staff of Job Services Australia, Disability Employment Services and the Indigenous Employment Program to respond to the needs and circumstances of mature age job seekers, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations should ensure they are provided with information and training tools about:
(a) age discrimination;
(b) the effect that illness, disability and caring responsibilities may have on the capacity of mature age persons to work;
(c) diversity among mature age job seekers; and
(d) Australian Government programs targeted at mature age job seekers.
 DEEWR, Job Services Australia (2013) <http://deewr.gov.au/job-services-australia-jsa> at 21 March 2013.
 DEEWR, Disability Employment Services (2012) <http://deewr.gov.au/disability-employment-services> at 21 March 2013. DES providers also provide employment services under contract with DEEWR.
 DEEWR, FaHCSIA, DHS, DIISRTE, Submission to the Senate Inquiry on the Adequacy of the Allowance Payment System for Job Seekers and Others (2012), 129.
 From 1 July 2013, employment and participation services and community development programs in remote areas—currently provided by JSA, DES, IEP and CDEP—will be provided by a new integrated service, the Remote Jobs and Communities Program: Australian Government, Remote Jobs and Communities Program General Fact Sheet (2012).
 In some cases, persons not in receipt of income support may be eligible to access Australian Government employment services. Persons aged 15–21 not employed for more than 15 hours per week or in full time education and vulnerable persons aged 15–21 who are full time students and ‘Drought Force’ participants are considered ‘fully eligible’ for employment services. Other persons who are not: full time students; working in paid employment for 15 hours or more per week and not on income support; overseas visitors on working holiday visas or studying in Australia; or prohibited by law from working in Australia may access limited services from employment services providers: DEEWR, FaHCSIA, DHS, DIISRTE, Submission to the Senate Inquiry on the Adequacy of the Allowance Payment System for Job Seekers and Others (2012), 129–30.
Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) s 601; DEEWR, FaHCSIA, DHS, DIISRTE, Submission to the Senate Inquiry on the Adequacy of the Allowance Payment System for Job Seekers and Others (2012), [188.8.131.52].
 DEEWR, FaHCSIA, DHS, DIISRTE, Submission to the Senate Inquiry on the Adequacy of the Allowance Payment System for Job Seekers and Others (2012), 129–130.
 ACTU, Submission 88; Brotherhood of St Laurence, Submission 54; National Welfare Rights Network, Submission 50.
 There are two types of services provided by DES. The Employment Support Service is for people with a permanent disability and with an assessed need for longer-term, regular, ongoing support in the workplace. The Disability Management Service is for people with disability, an injury, or a health condition who need the help of an employment service but do not expect to need long-term support in the workplace: DEEWR, Disability Employment Services (2012) <http://deewr.gov.au/disability-employment-services> at 21 March 2013. Employment Support Service contracts were re-tendered in 2012 and will run from March 2013 to June 2018: DEEWR, Employment Services—Building on Success Issues Paper (2012), 7.
 DEEWR, Employment Services—Building on Success Issues Paper (2012).
 National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN), Submission 99.
Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) s 14A.
Social Security Legislation Amendment (Fair Incentives to Work) Act 2012 (Cth) sch 2.
 The Liquid Assets waiting period begins from the date of ceasing work or study, or making a claim for income support: Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) s 598.
 The Treasury, Australia’s Future Tax System: Consultation Paper (2008), 111. See also Brotherhood of St Laurence, Submission 54.
 DEEWR, Employment Services Code of Practice (2013) <www.foi.deewr.gov.au/documents/
employment-services-code-practice> at 21 March 2013.
 DEEWR, Job Seeker Classification Instrument: Factors and Points version 1.1.
 In specified circumstances, a job seeker may be exempt from the activity test and not be required to enter into an EPP: Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) s 605; DEEWR, FaHCSIA, DHS, DIISRTE, Submission to the Senate Inquiry on the Adequacy of the Allowance Payment System for Job Seekers and Others (2012), [1.1. E.103].
 FaHCSIA, Guide to Social Security Law (2013) <www.fahcsia.gov.au/guides_acts> at 21 March 2013, [184.108.40.206].
 DEEWR, DHS and FaHCSIA, Submission 101.
Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) ss 501A, 606; FaHCSIA, Guide to Social Security Law (2013) <www.fahcsia.gov.au/guides_acts> at 21 March 2013, [220.127.116.11].
 L Fowkes, Rethinking Australia’s Employment Services, Whitlam Institute Perspectives Papers 6 (2011), 14; M Considine, J Lewis and S O’Sullivan, ‘Quasi-markets and Service Delivery Flexibility Following a Decade of Employment Assistance Reform in Australia’ (2011) 40(4) Journal of Social Policy 811,
 M Considine, J Lewis and S O’Sullivan, ‘Quasi-markets and Service Delivery Flexibility Following a Decade of Employment Assistance Reform in Australia’ (2011) 40(4) Journal of Social Policy 811,
 DEEWR, FaHCSIA, DHS, DIISRTE, Submission to the Senate Inquiry on the Adequacy of the Allowance Payment System for Job Seekers and Others (2012), 80.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings, Cat No 4430.0 (2003); National Welfare Rights Network, Submission 50.
 See, eg, Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) ss 603, 603A, 603C.
 Brotherhood of St Laurence, Submission 54; COTA, Submission 51.
 Commonwealth Ombudsman Office, Submission 16.
 Olderworkers, Submission 22.
 Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, Submission 78.
 Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA), Submission 80.
 Australian Government, Budget 2012–13: Budget Paper No 2 (2012) <www.budget.gov.au> at 21 March 2013; Australian Government, Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2012-13 (2012), 211. In addition, the Experience+ Career Advice service provides professional career counselling and a resumé appraisal service to all job seekers and workers aged 45 years and over: DEEWR, Free Career Advice (2012) <www.deewr.gov.au/> at 21 March 2013.
 National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN), Submission 99.
 Australian Law Reform Commission, Grey Areas—Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws, Discussion Paper 78 (2012), Proposal 5–2.
 Australian Industry Group, Submission 97; National Seniors Australia, Submission 92; ACTU, Submission 88; Brotherhood of St Laurence, Submission 86; Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA), Submission 80; Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, Submission 78; Diversity Council of Australia, Submission 71.
 DEEWR, Employment Services Code of Practice (2013) <http://foi.deewr.gov.au/documents/
employment-services-code-practice> at 21 March 2013.
 DEEWR, Advisory Panel on Employment Services Administration and Accountability Final Report (2013), 28.
 DEEWR, DHS and FaHCSIA, Submission 101.
 K Ellis, MP, K Carr, MP, M Butler, MP, ‘Frontline Training to Stop Job Seekers Living with Mental Illness Falling Through the Cracks’ (Press Release, 4 September 2012).