My job agency cut me off Newstart because I did not enter into a job plan – a outrageous penalty considering I was not even presented with a job plan in my appointment. My payment was delayed my almost a week because of this.
On the 22nd of January I lodged an official complaint with the Department of Employment Customer Service Line (reference number 462 111).
My complaint covered Wesley Mission’s:
- failure to present me with a job plan to sign;
- demand I attend a weekly appointment despite job plan saying monthly;
- insistence that I would have to transfer if I refused and;
- bullying approach towards me
The Department of Employment Customer Service Line informed me that “my job agency can negotiate with me to attend as many appointments as required”.
When I questioned how the government could give job agencies such power over unemployed workers, the staff member said it was up to unemployed workers to negotiate with agencies. I told them I was told I could not negotiate, and the staff member acknowledged this was wrong. But at the same time, the staff member acknowledged that “the harder you push, the harder they are going push against it” and said I may need to go to Centrelink to get my personal circumstances recognised.
The Department escalated my complaint and said my job agency will be required to discuss it with me at my next appointment
Centrelink Participations Team
A few days after I made this complaint, I received a letter from my job agency stating I have to attend an appointment only one week after my previous appointment. This was a clear breach of my job plan which states I am required to attend monthly appointments.
I did not attend the appointment, and I got cut of my Newstart for the second time in a few days. I contacted the Centrelink Participations Team (Reference number: 172 988) to resolve the issue.
I informed the Participations team that my job agency was unfairly forcing me to attend weekly appointments despite my current job plan says I am required to attend monthly appointments.I asked Centrelink to put me back on the payment given that I should have never been made to attend a weekly appointment. I was informed by the staff member that they “can’t” and that I needed to go back to my job agency to resolve this issue.
I reminded them that under social security law, “Employment services providers do not make compliance decisions under social security law. Providers report non-compliance to DHS, for DHS to make compliance penalty decisions.” The staff member, Penny disagreed. She said that “Centrelink do not make all compliance decisions. Employment services make some and Centrelink make some”. I once again read out the social security law, saying that Centrelink has the power to make all compliance decisions and that, by law, Centrelink is obligated to look into each penalty and impose the correct decision.
Penny disagreed and became defensive, reminding me of my obligation to “look for work”. I asked to speak to Penny’s supervisor.
After explaining my situation, the supervisor informed me that I need to go back to my job agency to resolve the issue.He backed up Penny saying that Centrelink are not able to put me back on the payment. He also informed me that Centrelink do not make all compliance decisions – according to him its a “shared responsibility”. I read out the social security law again, and once again, the staff member got defensive and reminded my of my obligations to “look for work”.
I was shocked. Both members of staff were failing to uphold social security law. I had been on the phone for 3 hours. I had no choice but to go back to my job agency.
I called Wesley Mission and organised a “re-engagement” appointment for the 31st of January.
At the appointment I once again had a new case manager. She informed me that the Department of Employment had contacted them about my complaint. She acknowledged that I wasn’t treated the way I should have been. That was all she said about it.
She told me that I need to sign a new job plan. She said she was prepared to negotiate regarding the frequency of appointments. She said she “couldn’t” do monthly appointments but suggested an appointment every three weeks. I accepted and signed the new job plan.
My job agent also informed me that I would have to do Work for the Dole soon. I told her that I would like to do voluntary activity at the National Union of Workers again, like I have done previously. She informed me that: “Last time it didn’t get you a job so I won’t be accepting it this time. You haven’t work for a while so WFTD will be helpful for you to get you into employment”.
Once again my job agency was refusing me my right to negotiate a fair job plan. This would mean yet another fight.
Complaint to Centrelink
On the 14th of February, I made a complaint to Centrelink about the incorrect information I was given on the Centrelink Participations Line. I informed them that I was deeply concerned that two staff members were failing to uphold an crucial component of social security law. I requested that the phone line be investigated.
My complaint was processed and escalated and I was told I would be contacted by Centrelink in 10 business days.