Private employment services forced to reimburse $ 1 million in bonuses wrongly claimed in 2020 | Unemployment

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The federal government recovered more than $ 1 million from wrongful claims made by privatized employment service providers last year, freedom of information documents reveal.

Under the jobactive and ParentsNext programs, which are designed to get job seekers to work and prepare parents for employment respectively, outsourced providers demand “payouts” to place their clients in jobs or jobs. education course.

Documents obtained by Guardian Australia under freedom of information show that since 2015, when jobactive contracts began, $ 5.3 million in outcome payments have been clawed back by the government.

Documents show that $ 1.03 million was recovered in 2020, while $ 340,000 has been recovered so far this year.

Overall, the documents suggest that there were more than 5,000 payments recovered between 2015 and 2021, including hundreds of occasions where employment agencies claimed the bonuses without proof, and even more when the complaints did not follow the rules of the program.

The industry-leading body noted that many claims had been made in error, most of which were echoed by providers, but welfare groups argued the numbers showed more regulation was needed.

Cassandra Goldie, chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Services, called for an independent regulator to oversee providers.

“The magnitude of these clawbacks shows that there is still a serious problem in the way the government holds employment services accountable for delivering high quality and efficient services to those who need their help,” she declared.

“An independent regulator would provide greater transparency and allow unemployed people to file complaints and have their complaints dealt with quickly.

“A regulator would also be mandated to ensure that instances of poor performance or unjustifiable payment claims from employment service providers are dealt with promptly, transparently and appropriately. “

Kristin O’Connell, of the Antipoverty Center, said she believed the numbers underestimated the number of false claims in the system.

“The number of reports we hear of people pressured to sign fake recordings suggests this is a drop in the ocean,” O’Connell said.

She said it was “astonishing” that most of the claim errors seem to have been caught by the agencies and asked the government to provide more details on how the conduct of suppliers has come under scrutiny. investigation.

“The government needs to be transparent about this,” she said. “How can the public be sure that there aren’t more employment agencies destroying the system if they don’t tell us how many claims they’re investigating? We just don’t know if the department is getting enough resources to do this job.

“The government publishes information on how many people on payments are penalized and for what reasons, they have to do the same with employment agencies. “

Former employment consultants alleged to Guardian Australia in 2019, they witnessed staff doctor forms so suppliers can claim payments for job seekers not working enough hours, while others allegations include agencies offering the unemployed money and gasoline to lie about their employment status.

More recently, Guardian Australia revealed in May that the government had “locked down” its computer systems to prevent rorting into another employment services program, Employment Services for People with Disabilities.

The claimants were accused of claiming payments for education outcomes for ineligible job seekers.

The government is reforming the Jobactive system, with a new system starting next year that includes a licensing system for suppliers. It also intends to reform the employment services for people with disabilities.

Sally Sinclair, executive director of the National Employment Services Association, said providers operate in a “complex contractual framework and a highly transactional operating environment with significant administrative requirements.”

She said the system was being monitored “very closely”, but that if “the systems and practices of employment services aim to achieve 100% accuracy in claims”, “errors do occur”.

Sinclair noted that a “substantial proportion of claim providers have self-identified and reported to DESE as being made in error with a recovery request.”

“There is no evidence available to us that there is a systemic intentional submission of ‘false allegations’,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education, Skills and Employment said suppliers consistently achieve “high compliance rates in all payment integrity assurance activities conducted by the department.”

“The recovery of performance payments made to suppliers, for all reasons ranging from non-compliance to data entry errors, represents less than 0.5% of the total value of performance payments made in 2019-2020″, said the spokesperson.

While the sum of bonuses recovered under Jobactive is far less than the $ 41 million recovered in three years under the previous system, before 2015, the spokesperson cautioned against comparisons.

“Data on the recovery of performance payments over time and between different employment service models cannot be meaningfully compared and does not necessarily reflect changes in supplier compliance rates,” the said. spokesperson.

Meanwhile, a government-chaired parliamentary inquiry last week recommended that the controversial ParentsNext program – which targets single parents – should be made voluntary.

“It is welcome to see members on both sides of politics calling on the Morrison government to reform this broken agenda and stop pushing women and young children deeper into poverty,” said the legal director of the Department. Human Rights Law Center, Meena Singh..

“This confirms what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organizations, women and human rights have been saying for years: The ParentsNext program doesn’t work and only makes life harder for moms with young children. “


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