Overview of the pre-employment system

15.14 Employment service structures, such as JSA, DES and IEP play a central role in ‘the Australian Government’s labour force participation, productivity and social inclusion policies’.[9] JSA, introduced in 2009 is the Australian Government’s national employment services system. The introduction of JSA was prompted by significant concern about the way in which the previous Job Network system was operating, and its suitability to the Australian economic environment.[10] In part, the purpose of introducing JSA was an attempt to shift the job services system away from focusing on maintaining the labour market engagement of job seekers towards more individualised assistance for those facing substantial barriers to work.[11]

15.15 JSA delivery is provided by approximately 115 contracted employment service providers known as JSA providers.[12] The role of providers is to assist individual job seekers to gain sustainable employment including, where necessary, connecting job seekers to skills development and training opportunities in order to assist them to obtain employment. Providers can also provide a range of services, such as advising job seekers on job search methods or career options, assisting in the preparation of cover letters and resumes, arranging work experience, or referring the job seeker to appropriate support services.

15.16 Importantly, the focus of the JSA system as a whole is on a job seeker’s capacity and readiness to work, as distinct from the focus of the social security system, as discussed in Chapter 5.

15.17 In March 2010, a system of specialist providers—referred to collectively as DES—replaced the former Disability Employment Network and Vocational Rehabilitation Services to provide employment services for job seekers with disability. DES comprises approximately 220 providers.[13]

15.18 Further, integrated Indigenous employment services are available through the JSA network, in conjunction with the IEP and, in areas with poor labour markets, Community Development Employment Projects.


15.19 Once a job seeker registers for activity or participation tested income support, Centrelink, or in some cases a JSA provider, administers a questionnaire called the JSCI to evaluate a job seeker’s barriers to work. Based on the results of the JSCI, job seekers are classified as being in one of four ‘streams’: the least disadvantaged job seekers are categorised as Stream 1, while increasingly more disadvantaged applicants are placed in Stream 2, Stream 3 or Stream 4, respectively.

15.20 The stream into which a job seeker experiencing family violence is placed affects how much and what type of assistance he or she will receive. For example, a job seeker in Stream 1 may receive assistance to access job search facilities; revise his or her curriculum vitae or access training. In Streams 2–4, job seekers receive more intensive services.

15.21 In some cases, where the results of the JSCI indicate ‘significant barriers to work’, job seekers will be referred to one of two additional assessments, either an ESAt or JCA.

15.22 Referral by Centrelink is the key way in which job seekers connect with JSA providers. Upon referral, job seekers are able to choose the JSA provider to which they are allocated, or where they do not choose a preferred provider, are allocated a provider depending on factors such as geographical location and the availability of appointments. However, in some cases job seekers will register directly with a JSA provider. The DES system operates somewhat differently, as job seekers are usually referred to a DES provider following a JCA.

15.23 Once registered with a provider, the job seeker and provider work cooperatively with Centrelink to negotiate an EPP. Negotiation and revision of EPPs, including the capture and assessment of the circumstance of job seekers experiencing family violence are discussed in the context of social security in Chapter 7.

15.24 Once a job seeker is placed in a particular stream the role of providers is to assist individual job seekers to gain sustainable employment including, where necessary, connecting job seekers to skills development and training opportunities in order to assist them to obtain employment. Depending on the stream into which the job seeker is placed, providers may also be required to provide other services. This is particularly so in the case of DES providers.

15.25 Where a job seeker has been receiving participation payments for 12 months, they are re-assessed in a Stream Services Review, to determine whether the job seeker is still placed in the most appropriate stream or whether they should be transferred to the ‘work experience phase’.[14] Additional mechanisms for re-assessment include referral to an ESAt or JCA or, in the context of a JSCI, through a Change in Circumstances Reassessment.

[9] Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Job Services Australia Industry Information Paper (2011), 1.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Australian Council of Social Service, Submission to Minister for Employment Participation on the Future of Job Services Australia (2011), 3.

[12] J Disney, A Buduls and P Grant, Impacts of the new Job Seeker Compliance Framework: Report of the Independent Review (2010), 11. See below for further discussion of tender and contract arrangements. JSA providers operate in geographical areas known as Employment Service Areas.

[13] Ibid, 11.

[14] An activity test or participation requirement may include a range of things, including a specific work experience activity requirement, an approved program of work for unemployment payment (Work for the Dole).