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Stuart Robert: suspend ‘mutual’ obligations to ensure safety during lockdown
People on Centrelink payments must not be forced to travel within or to locked down areas
Our original statement is at the bottom of this page.
If you are required to do ‘mutual’ obligations to keep your income support payment please read the below information carefully. Exercising your right not to do the activities in your job plan at this time will assist in minimising risk to yourself and the community by ensuring you do not feel pressured to leave home unnecessarily.
Updated 11 September 2021
This page will be updated regularly as new announcements are made.
The government has not made any announcements about ‘mutual’ obligations suspensions since 16 August, however suspensions have been extended and published on the JobSearch website. They have consistently applied suspensions for every lockdown of more than a few days. If you are in a locked down location you are likely to have MOs suspended, even if it is not announced immediately. Some announcements have been made after the date the suspension begun.
Please read the below information carefully to find out where the suspensions apply right now and what it means for you.
The locations currently in lockdown and with no ‘mutual’ obligations are:
Greater Sydney including the Blue Mountains and Wollongong (view map) until at least 5 October
The rest of New South Wales until 14 September
All of the ACT until at least 21 September
All of Victoria until at least 5 October
If you aren't in the areas where a suspension applies but you're affected by a lockdown or need to isolate you can negotiate your requirements. If you have a provider contact them first, and, if they are unhelpful, complain to the National Customer Service Line on 1800 805 260 or via email@example.com (if you are sending a message in writing it can be helpful to cc your job agency and they may change their mind). If you are in Online Employment Services, contact the Digital Services Contact Centre on 1800 314 677 or email via firstname.lastname@example.org.
What this means
Suspension of penalties means you won't get a demerit or have your payment cut if you don't do activities between now and when the MOs suspension ends. You don't have to attend appointments (on the phone or in person), training, Work for the Dole, volunteering or report job applications.
What to do if you want a break from MOs
Due to report on or before the last day of the suspension
You don’t need to do anything. You may wish to contact your provider to notify them that you won’t be doing activities until penalties are reintroduced, but this isn’t required. Your payment will be unaffected either way.
Due to report on or after the suspension lifts
The department is not automatically adjusting job search requirements for people affected by lockdown who are due to report job searches on or after the suspension lifts. This does not mean you have to do all the activities you normally do.
After the last Melbourne lockdown, people were advised by the department to contact their provider and negotiate reduced requirements. There is no need to wait to do this, you can get in touch now to give yourself more time to negotiate.
If you are in Online Employment Services, contact the Digital Services Contact Centre on 1800 314 677 or email via email@example.com. Let them know that you are affected by the lockdown and want your requirements reduced to reflect the suspension period.
If you have a provider:
Tell your provider the suspension means you won't do activities or job search until at least 3 August (or whenever the suspension is due to lift). You can send them the link to the minister’s statement found here: https://ministers.dese.gov.au/robert/suspension-mutual-obligations-requirements-nsw-extended-further
Ask your provider to confirm in writing that they'll be adjusting your job search requirement to reflect the suspension. You might wish to ask them to pro rata the number. For example, if penalties are lifted for three weeks of your reporting period, it is reasonable for them to reduce your requirement by 75 per cent.
If your provider is rude, lying or refusing to help you, complain to the National Customer Service Line on 1800 805 260 or via firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are sending a message in writing it can be helpful to cc your job agency and they may change their mind.
Check this page regularly. If you are a Twitter user you can also follow the below accounts. You can turn on tweet notifications to make sure you don’t miss any updates.
Antipoverty Centre: @antipovertycent
Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union: @ausunemployment
Luke Henrique-Gomes: @lukehgomes
Department of employment: @EmploymentGovAU
Original statement issued 25 June 2021
The Antipoverty Centre calls on employment minister Stuart Robert to immediately suspend all ‘mutual’ obligations penalties for people on income support payments in NSW. Don’t be reckless with the safety of people in employment services or our communities.
The government needs to do this immediately, and needs to guarantee that no person will have their payment cut for this period, regardless of when lockdown is lifted – after the last “suspension” in Melbourne we consistently heard that people were required to do activities despite the minister’s announcement.
It's unconscionable to force people facing the mental health effects of being isolated in lockdown, many of whom are losing income1 and already struggling on a payment that's half the poverty line, to continue meeting punitive requirements to just to keep that payment. It's unsafe and it puts us all at risk.
We know job agencies are ruthless and will cut people off if they refuse to attend an appointment or their Work for the Dole site. These activities are how job agencies make their money. We are particularly concerned that people may be told to travel into a locked down area under threat of losing their payment.
The government must provide adequate financial support to everyone in the community. A meagre payment that only a tiny number of people qualify for and that only kicks in after a week of lost income is a joke.
Lifting income support payments to at least the level of the $550 per fortnight Coronavirus supplement is the only way to inoculate those in insecure and unwaged work against the rolling crisis.
Media contact: Kristin O’Connell, 0413 261 362, media at antipovertycentre.org
Nearly one quarter of people on unemployment payments are in paid employment but have such low earnings that they remain reliant on income support. Department of Social Services data: https://data.gov.au/data/dataset/jobseeker-payment-and-youth-allowance-recipients-monthly-profile