15.51 There are approximately 115 JSA providers. JSA and DES providers include a range of for-profit and not-for-profit organisations of differing sizes that operate in geographical ESAs. This section of the chapter outlines how improvements could be made to the processes and responses of providers that would enhance the safety of victims of family violence. These include:
- the process of allocation to a JSA provider;
- screening for family violence by JSA and DES providers; and
- JSA and DES provider responses to disclosure of family violence—including: referral to Centrelink social workers as well as systems and programs to assist job seekers experiencing family violence.
15.52 Each JSA provider is contracted to provide, and ‘guaranteed a specified percentage of the referrals of job seekers in [a particular] area to JSA providers’. This is known as a ‘business share’. Upon referral, job seekers are usually able to choose the JSA provider to which they are allocated. In some cases, however, where the JSA provider has already achieved ‘its upper tolerance of business share’, the job seeker will be requested to choose another preferred JSA provider. Where a job seeker does not choose a preferred provider, they will be allocated a provider, depending on factors such as geographical location and the availability of appointments.
15.53 Job seekers usually remain with the same JSA provider whilst looking for work, however the ALRC understands that in some circumstances they may change JSA provider. For example, if the job seeker changes address and cannot access the provider’s office, or requests to change provider in circumstances where the job seeker:
- is unable to maintain a reasonable and constructive servicing relationship with the provider;
- requests a change in provider and both new and old providers agree to the change; or
- can demonstrate they would receive better services from another provider that could enhance their employment prospects.
15.54 Stakeholders suggested that there may be a need to ensure that a victim of family violence can change JSA or DES providers where the perpetrator of family violence attends the same provider. For example, WEAVE submitted that in its experience, ‘victims have gone to [providers] and found their perpetrator in the same seminar’.
15.55 The ALRC acknowledges that in some areas, for example rural areas, it may be difficult to change providers where there is limited access to provider services. However, in light of the safety concerns that may arise where a job seeker experiencing family violence is required to attend the same provider as the person using family violence, to the extent that this is not already possible, the ALRC considers that in such circumstances the victim should be entitled to change JSA or DES providers upon request.
Proposal 15–2 The current circumstances in which a job seeker can change JSA or DES providers should be extended to circumstances where a job seeker who is experiencing family violence is registered with the same JSA or DES provider as the person using family violence.
Screening for family violence
15.56 Screening is the first step in a risk assessment process that involves the systemic application of a series of questions to ‘identify individuals at sufficient risk of violence to benefit from further investigation and/or direct preventative action’. Screening is primarily a safety precaution. To be effective, however, screening must be followed by a positive and appropriate response.
15.57 In light of the barriers to disclosure of family violence discussed in Chapters 4 and 14, there may be a need to screen for family violence in the context of the pre-employment system. In most cases, job seekers will be connected to the JSA or DES system by way of referral from Centrelink. The screening processes and procedures Centrelink has in place with respect to family violence are discussed in Chapter 4. However, the ALRC has heard that, in some cases, a job seeker may disclose family violence to a JSA or DES provider, without having necessarily previously disclosed family violence.
15.58 Disclosure of family violence may occur at a number of stages of the JSA or DES provider service delivery, including formulation of the EPP (in which case, Centrelink is usually directly involved); the administration of the JSCI (which is dealt with below); or in the general course of the JSA or DES provider assisting the job seeker to obtain relevant education or training in preparation for employment, or in facilitating the person’s finding of employment. The ALRC is therefore interested in stakeholder feedback as to whether JSA and DES providers should conduct screening for family violence more broadly and routinely.
15.59 The strengths and limitations of screening are discussed in Chapter 4. In pre-employment, the primary benefits of screening for family violence include that it may:
- improve identification of job seekers experiencing violence;
- assist JSA and DES providers to provide more appropriate and tailored employment services; and
- foster interagency collaboration, for example between DEEWR, Centrelink, DHS, and JSA and DES providers.
15.60 If JSA and DES providers should screen for family violence, several key issues arise in considering screening in this context, including: what to screen for; how such screening should occur, including the manner and environment in which to conduct screening; and when to conduct screening.
15.61 If screening were introduced, JSA and DES provider staff would need regular and consistent training to ensure that screening is conducted appropriately and that, if family violence is disclosed in the course of a JSCI (whether in the context of screening, or in response to any new family violence category of information), they respond sensitively and appropriately.
What to screen for
15.62 In response to the Social Security and Child Support and Family Assistance Issues Papers, stakeholders generally considered that screening should enquire about: the presence of violence; the safety of both the individual and any children involved’; non-physical as well as physical abuse; the general indicators of violence (for example, controlling behaviour regarding finances); and a number of vulnerability indicators—including homelessness, disability, illiteracy and mental illness—because often these indicators occur in combination.
How should screening occur?
15.63 In considering how screening should occur in a pre-employment context, it is important to distinguish discussion of general screening processes from questions asked in the context of any new category of information included under the JSCI for the purposes of determining a job seeker’s barriers to employment.
15.64 There are a number of ways screening could occur: provision of information to allow for self-disclosure; direct questioning though a series of questions about family violence; or both. Another approach may involve a two-stage process in which general information is provided and, where fear of violence is identified, a more detailed screening process is conducted.
15.65 Provision of information in order to facilitate self-disclosure, for example through application forms, correspondence or telephone prompts, could potentially include information about:
- family violence;
- processes for disclosure;
- what impact disclosure of family violence may have in the pre-employment system (for example, referral to Centrelink and potential access to specialised services or targeted job placement programs); and
- the availability of resources and support.
15.66 Direct and routine questioning of job seekers by JSA or DES providers could involve questions about whether the job seeker has any current concerns for their own safety or the safety of members of their household.
15.67 The manner and environment in which screening for family violence occurs is also important. For example, consideration may need to be given to explaining why screening is occurring, how the information will be used and the information protections available as well as screening in a private environment.
When should screening occur?
15.68 Screening could occur at a number of points in the pre-employment context (in addition to where conducted by Centrelink). For example, JSA or DES providers could screen for family violence on first contact or initial assessment, and/or more routinely. This issue is discussed in more detail in the social security and child support and family assistance systems in Chapters 4, 5, and 9–11.
Submissions and consultations
15.69 A large number of submissions received in response to the Child Support and Family Assistance Issues Paper and the Social Security Issues Paper recognised the importance of screening processes in those contexts. Many suggested that agencies have an obligation to seek information from customers about circumstances which may affect their capacity to engage, or their entitlement to payments or services.
15.70 In the context of the JSA system, WEAVE submitted that:
Job Services Providers like to argue that domestic violence cases have been screened out so they don’t need to do anything … When a client discloses family violence and they have not seen a Centrelink social worker the JSP should refer the client back to Centrelink … JSPs also need to inquire on intake if there are any threats to the person’s safety or other in their household. If the person discloses current or recent violence they should be given full information about all Centrelink supports and exemptions available to them so they can make an informed decision about their next steps.
15.71 A range of other stakeholders supported the introduction of screening for family violence in the context of the pre-employment system. For example, the ADFVC recommended ‘the introduction of standard questions for raising family violence issues with clients. These questions could be similar in structure to those currently adopted by the New South Wales Health Routine Screening for Domestic Violence Program’.
15.72 Providers play a primary role in assisting job seekers to gain sustainable employment, and, where necessary, connecting them to skills development and training opportunities, as well as provision of a range of other services.
15.73 In ensuring that the JSA and DES systems are effective in assisting job seekers, all circumstances and barriers that may affect a job seeker’s ability to work are relevant and need to be considered. While there are difficulties with introducing screening for family violence by JSA or DES provider staff, to the extent that screening for family violence facilitates consideration of the impact of family violence on a job seeker, and ultimately assists the job seeker to gain or retain employment, the ALRC considers it would be a positive development. However, the ALRC would be interested in stakeholder comment on what the focus of any screening by JSA or DES provider staff should be, for example: physical safety, the presence of violence, other indicators potentially affecting a job seeker such as homelessness, or all of these.
15.74 Determining the most effective way for JSA and DES providers to identify family violence issues is a difficult issue. As a result, the ALRC welcomes stakeholder feedback about the most appropriate way in which to conduct screening, including how, in what manner and environment and when. The ALRC considers that it may be appropriate for JSA and DES providers to screen for family violence at the first contact with a job seeker and, thereafter, routinely, but welcomes stakeholder feedback concerning the points at which JSA and DES providers should screen for family violence. Any screening for family violence should also take into consideration a job seeker’s cultural and linguistic background as well as the person’s capacity to understand, for example, in circumstances involving job seekers with a cognitive disability.
15.75 Finally, the introduction of screening for family violence by JSA and DES provider staff would involve a new process. If introduced, the ALRC considers that it is important that regular and consistent training is provided to staff who conduct screening and that monitoring and evaluation are built into the screening process to ensure that screening increases the disclosure of family violence, and that it is positively assisting job seekers experiencing family violence. Monitoring and evaluation should also be conducted routinely and the outcomes made publicly available.
Question 15–4 Should JSA and DES providers routinely screen for family violence? If so:
- what should the focus of screening be;
- how, and in what manner and environment, should such screening be conducted; and
- when should such screening be conducted?
Referral to Centrelink
15.76 For screening for family violence to be effective, it must be followed by a positive and appropriate response. In particular, there must be a ‘clear signal’ to victims that they will receive assistance and support following disclosure of family violence.
15.77 In light of the procedures and mechanisms already in place within the social security system, in the context of the JSA and DES systems the current response is referral back to Centrelink and, in particular, to a Centrelink social worker. A range of existing DEEWR material provided to JSA and DES providers includes information about the appropriate response where a job seeker discloses ‘domestic violence, family grief or trauma’:
If a job seeker discloses domestic violence, family grief or trauma, the job seeker should be immediately referred to a Centrelink social worker. The Social Worker will assess the job seeker’s eligibility for a participation activity exemption and refer the job seeker to other appropriate services for immediate assistance. If the information is being disclosed while the JSCI is being conducted, the JSA provider should complete and submit the JSCI.
15.78 Referral allows job seekers to have their eligibility for exemptions from activity and participation requirements considered and facilitates connections to support services.
15.79 The ALRC is interested in stakeholder feedback on whether, in practice, job seekers are referred to a Centrelink social worker. The ALRC is interested in reforms to ensure this occurs in practice. For example, it may be beneficial to include the referral requirement in additional material.
Question 15–5 Under the Job Seeker Classification Instrument Guidelines if a job seeker discloses family violence, the job seeker should immediately be referred to a Centrelink social worker. What reforms, if any, are necessary to ensure this occurs in practice?
Systems or programs for job seekers experiencing family violence
15.80 Where victims of family violence disclose family violence in the pre-employment context, ideally this will trigger a number of responses: at the outset, they will be referred to a Centrelink social worker. If the proposals in relation to the JSCI later in the chapter are adopted, it may also affect the stream placement of the job seeker.
15.81 There are a number of other system responses to disclosures of family violence, including potential access by providers to funds under the Employment Pathway Fund (EPF), which is a flexible pool of funds available to providers to purchase a broad range of assistance to help job seekers access training and support to find and retain a job.
15.82 In addition, there is also a need to ensure ongoing support for job seekers experiencing family violence throughout the job search process. However, as far as the ALRC is aware, JSA and DES providers do not currently have formal systems or programs in place within the stream system to account for the particular needs of job seekers experiencing family violence.
15.83 However, the ALRC understands that some JSA providers, on an informal basis, have measures in place to assist job seekers experiencing family violence to gain and retain employment. For example, through finding a job seeker work that will avoid having contact with external clients in order to avoid any risk posed by the perpetrator attending the workplace. In its submission the ADFVC suggested the development of a targeted job placement program that
screens prospective employers who might be more supportive of employees who are victims of violence, and likely to provide flexible hours and other measures to enable workforce participation.
15.84 The development of specific systems or programs could ensure that where job seekers are either not eligible for activity or participation exemptions, or make the choice to work, they are provided with additional tailored pre-employment support. In addition, such moves may address stakeholder concerns that, under the current system, ‘there is no clear signal to victims that they will receive any help by disclosing violence’.
15.85 In Family Violence—A National Legal Response, the ALRC and the New South Wales Law Reform Commission (the Commissions) favoured the specialisation of key individuals and institutions that deal with family violence. The ALRC’s preliminary view in this Inquiry is that the safety of job seekers experiencing family violence may be improved through the introduction of specialist systems and programs by JSA and DES providers. The ALRC envisages that JSA and DES providers could introduce a range of initiatives, such as:
a targeted job placement program that screens employers for understanding or support of issues arising from family violence, relevant workplace policies and clauses, and provision of access to flexible working arrangements or leave; or
making arrangements to ensure a job seeker can work in a position that will not require them to work alone, or have contact with external clients, in order to avoid any risk posed by the perpetrator attending the workplace.
15.86 Involvement in any such systems or programs would need to be on an opt-in basis, to ensure the job seeker has a right to choose whether or not their experiences of family violence should affect the employment services he or she is receiving. Any system or program would also need to provide ongoing support to the job seeker while they are experiencing family violence. Further, any such system or program would need to be introduced in the context of Proposal 4–9, which provides for a case management response to disclosures of family violence by, amongst others, Centrelink and DEEWR, and would need to work with any specialist team developed in response to the discussion in Chapter 4.
Proposal 15–3 JSA and DES providers should introduce specialist systems and programs for job seekers experiencing family violence—for example, a targeted job placement program.
 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.
 Ibid, 11.
 Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Request for Tender for Employment Services 2009–2012 (2008) 12.
 Ibid, [2.4.3].
 ADFVC, Submission CFV 26, 11 April 2011; WEAVE, Submission CFV 14, 5 April 2011.
 WEAVE, Submission CFV 14, 5 April 2011.
 Australian Institute of Social Relations, Screening, Risk Assessment and Safety Planning (2010).
 See Ch 4.
 Welfare Rights Centre NSW, Submission CFV 70, 9 May 2011; Sole Parents’ Union, Submission CFV 63, 27 April 2011.
 Sole Parents’ Union, Submission CFV 63, 27 April 2011.
 ADFVC, Submission CFV 71, 11 May 2011.
 Commonwealth Ombudsman, Submission CFV 54, 21 April 2011.
 For a fuller discussion of how screening could occur in the context of the social security and child support and family assistance systems, see Ch 4.
 Chapter 4.
 See, eg, Commonwealth Ombudsman, Submission CFV 62, 27 April 2011.
 WEAVE, Submission CFV 14, 5 April 2011.
 Ibid; M Winter, Submission CFV 12, 5 April 2011.
 ADFVC, Submission CFV 26, 11 April 2011.
 WEAVE, Submission CFV 14, 5 April 2011.
 See, eg, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Job Seeker Classification Instrument Guidelines, Version 1.6 (2011), 11; Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Conducting the Job Seeker Classification Instrument Job Aid (2011).
 Disclosure of family violence also triggers social security responses, including the tailoring of EPPs, discussed in Ch 7.
 Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations,, Job Services Australia: Stream Services <www.deewr.gov.au/Employment/JSA/EmploymentServices/Pages/streamServices.aspx> at 4 July 2011.
 ADFVC, Submission CFV 26, 11 April 2011.
 WEAVE, Submission CFV 14, 5 April 2011.
 Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission, Family Violence: A National Legal Response, ALRC Report 114; NSWLRC Report 128 (2010), Ch 32.