I arrived at Wesley Mission (Flemington) at around 2:40pm for my 2:45pm appointment.
As usual, I went to the computers to wait for my job agent to call me.
3:00pm – no sign of my job agent.
3:30pm – still nothing.
I wondered how long would I have to wait for them to notice I was still here.
By 3:50pm, they had won the stand off. I went to the desk to ask what was happening.
“Were you waiting in the waiting area?”, the receptionist asked me, as if it was my fault I had been left waiting for over an hour.
“No, I was by the computers”.
The receptionist went to go talk to the job agent.
A few minutes later, my job agent came out and called me in.
“When did you arrive?”
She seemed a bit unnerved and was looking at me strangely – probably something to do with the unemployed worker who I heard threaten to punch a job agent 30 minutes earlier.
“I arrived at 2:40 – I have been waiting for a long time”, I said.
She checked the computer.
“The receptionist sent me the message at 3:11pm to tell me you were here”, she said in a matter of fact way, as if to imply maybe I was the one who was late.
Once the appointment got underway, she informed me that Wesley Mission have “new rules” which mean I will have to come in once a week. As usual, there was no discussion about actually getting me a job. Straight off the bat, my job agent was making sure they were hitting their Key Performance Indicators.
“I don’t want to come in once a week”, I said. “My job plan says I only have to come in once a month”.
“That job plan needs to be updated”, she said.
I was explained to my job agent that I had arranged to come in once a month with my previous job plan because I was studying full time and engaging in voluntary work.
My job agent was unmoved. She told me that it was now Wesley Mission’s policy to make every stream B and C come in once a week while stream A’s were required to come in once a fortnight.
“My hands are tied. I cannot make any exceptions.”
If was unable or unwilling to come in once a week, I was told I should transfer to a different job agency.
“I am not transferring. I have a right to attend monthly appointments, which is why my job plan says I have to attend monthly appointments”, I said.
My job agent informed me the new requirements were “non-negotiable”.
“Are you familiar with the deed?”, I asked her.
“What deed?” she said, eyes wide.
“It’s the contract signed between your job agency and the government. In that contract it says clearly that I can attend monthly appointments”, I said.
She ignored what I said and repeated that Wesley Mission now have “new rules”.
“If you come in next week we can sort all this out and work on a new job plan”, she said.
“I already told you, I do not want to come in next week. My job plan says that I can come in monthly. You are breaking my job plan”. I was getting frustrated now.
My job agent told me that cause my job plan needed to be updated, it was already broken.
“If you do not want to come in weekly, you need to transfer”, she said.
Someone who appeared to be a manager then came to speak to me.
“When we tendered for our contract, we made an agreement with the government that in our Service Delivery Plan we would provide weekly appointments”, she explained.
I was informed that I had been with Wesley for 96 weeks. Why was I only being informed of this Service Delivery Plan plan now?
“The whole time I have been here, I haven’t been referred to one job. Why would I want to come in weekly even if I had the time? You can’t just make up your own rules. Are you saying that it is impossible for me to attend monthly appointments while with Wesley?”
“Our Service Delivery Plan requires weekly appointments”, she replied before stating I should explore transferring to another agency.
“I am going to lodge a complaint about with the Department of Employment”, I said.
“About me saying you can transfer?”, the manager asked straight faced.
After I explained the obvious, she said Wesley will put it in the system that a job plan was not signed and I would be contacted by Centrelink ‘today’ or ‘tomorrow’.
“So my payments will be cut off?”, I asked.
“Thats up to Centrelink to decide. They will be in contact with you. We do not want to waste any more of your time”.
It was 4:20pm – I had been there for one hour and 30 minutes and had not discussed anything relating to finding employment. All had been achieved is that I had effectively been kicked off my entitlement because I wanted to stick to my current job plan.
“You will be hearing from the department”, I said before walking out of the office.