Determining capacity to work

8.5 Several tools and processes are in place to determine a person’s capacity to work and to recommend the content of a person’s activity test or participation requirements. These include: the JSCI; an ESAt or JCA; and Comprehensive Compliance Assessments (CCA).

8.6 Once a job seeker registers for activity or participation-tested income support, Centrelink, or in some cases a JSA provider, administers a questionnaire—the JSCI—to evaluate any barriers to work.

8.7 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.[2] The stream into which a job seeker is placed affects how much and what type of assistance he or she will receive.

8.8 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. An ESAt or JCA is a more comprehensive assessment of a job seeker’s capacity to work than a JSCI. The assessment also informs the kinds of activities that a person will be required to undertake to improve their capacity to meet activity test requirements.[3] In some circumstances, the assessment indicates whether a person may be eligible for an exemption from these requirements.[4]

8.9 When job seekers have been receiving participation payments for 12 months, they are re-assessed in a Stream Services Review, to determine whether they are still placed in the most appropriate stream or whether they should be transferred to the ‘work experience phase’.[5] Additional mechanisms for re-assessment include referral to an ESAt or JCA or, in the context of a JSCI, through a Change of Circumstances Reassessment (COCR).

8.10 When a person registers with Centrelink as an unemployed job seeker, the person will be required to register with a JSA provider of his or her choice unless it is determined that these services are not the most appropriate form of assistance for the job seeker.[6] In some cases job seekers will register directly with a JSA provider rather than be referred by Centrelink. The DES system operates somewhat differently, as job seekers are usually referred to a DES provider following an ESAt or JCA.

8.11 The focus of the JSA system, as a whole, is on a job seeker’s capacity and readiness to work. JSA delivery is provided by approximately 115 contracted employment service providers, known as JSA providers.[7] 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. They 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 resumés, arranging work experience, or referring the job seeker to appropriate support services.

8.12 Different systems are available for job seekers with disability and Indigenous job seekers. The DES system provides employment services for job seekers with disability. DES comprises approximately 220 providers.[8] 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.

8.13 Once registered with a provider, the job seeker and provider work cooperatively with Centrelink to negotiate an Employment Pathway Plan (EPP), setting out the job seeker’s activity and participation requirements. Exemptions for a defined period, or suspensions from EPPs are available in certain circumstances.

8.14 If a job seeker is having difficulty meeting activity test or participation requirements, Centrelink will use a CCA to determine the reasons. A CCA will be automatically triggered after a job seeker has had three ‘Connection’ or ‘Reconnection Failures’, or three ‘No Show No Pay Failures’ in a six month period.[9] JSA providers or Centrelink may also initiate a CCA at any other time they believe a job seeker’s circumstances warrant it.[10]

8.15 Possible outcomes from a CCA include: referral to an ESAt or JCA for further assessment; referral to DES; referral to another JSA service stream; a recommendation that the activities or requirements in the job seeker’s EPP be amended; referral to a social worker; no action where there is reasonable explanation for the past failures or recent compliance record is good; or application of a ‘Serious Failure’. The findings of a CCA are also used to inform future decisions about the job seeker’s requirements.

8.16 Stakeholders raised concerns with respect to victims of family violence in relation to many aspects of the process for determining capacity to work, including:

  • the administration and content of the JSCI;[11]
  • referral processes to ESAt and JCA assessors;[12]
  • the administration, content and outcomes of an ESAt or JCA assessment;[13]
  • referral and allocation of JSA providers;[14]
  • JSA service delivery;[15] and
  • the negotiation of, and exemptions from, EPPs.[16]

8.17 The ALRC makes a number of recommendations to address these concerns and ultimately, improve the safety of victims of family violence.

[2] The JSCI provides a relative and not an absolute measure of job seeker disadvantage in the labour market: DEEWR, Correspondence 26 July 2011.

[3] FaHCSIA, Guide to Social Security Law <> at 1 November 2011, [].

[4] Ibid, [], [].

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

[6] FaHCSIA, Guide to Social Security Law <> at 1 November 2011, [].

[7] 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.

[8] Ibid, 11.

[9] Where a job seeker fails to meet their activity test or participation requirements and does not have a reasonable excuse or, where the failure relates to attendance at an appointment or activity, the job seeker does not give prior notice of a reasonable excuse when they were able to do so, a failure may be applied. FaHCSIA, Guide to Social Security Law <> at 1 November 2011, [].

[10] Ibid, [].

[11] AASW (Qld) and WRC Inc (Qld), Submission CFV 137; M Winter, Submission CFV 97; WEAVE, Submission CFV 92; ADFVC, Submission CFV 26; WEAVE, Submission CFV 14; M Winter, Submission CFV 12.

[12] M Winter, Submission CFV 97; WEAVE, Submission CFV 14; M Winter, Submission CFV 12.

[13] AASW (Qld) and WRC Inc (Qld), Submission CFV 137; M Winter, Submission CFV 97; WEAVE, Submission CFV 14; M Winter, Submission CFV 12.

[14] National Welfare Rights Network, Submission CFV 150; AASW (Qld) and WRC Inc (Qld), Submission CFV 137; M Winter, Submission CFV 97; WEAVE, Submission CFV 92.

[15] WEAVE, Submission CFV 14.

[16] Ibid; M Winter, Submission CFV 12.