A system designed to help people on welfare become ready for work will be the subject of a parliamentary inquiry.

Workforce Australia is an online service connecting job applicants to employment providers. It is aimed at helping people to come off JobSeeker unemployment payments.

Prior to the election, the former Liberal-National coalition government made changes to the program, including a new points-based system for JobSeeker recipients to access welfare payments.

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Users are issued with payment penalties for not meeting their obligations. 

The changes by the former government came into effect from July 4 and required fresh parliamentary scrutiny and oversight, Employment Minister Tony Burke said.

“While they spent nearly two years designing and building the software for the new system, (the coalition) did not properly explain it to the Australian people,” he said in a statement.

“We are concerned we have ended up with a system that is driven more by the details of contracts with providers than the legislation the previous government brought to parliament.”

Mr Burke said he was also concerned by the varying user experiences with the new program.

A parliamentary committee will inquire into Workforce Australia, gathering evidence on the program’s performance. 

The committee will provide a report to parliament in September 2023, after reviewing the new system for a year, and make recommendations for reform.

In the meantime, the Labor government has made changes to the system, including implementing a “clean slate” policy for people who had previously incurred penalties or demerits.

The government also increased the value of points attached to full-time study or training that helped people get into work. 

Payment penalties associated with the new system have been temporarily suspended while participants adapt.

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Peter Fray
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