Job agencies have suspended welfare payments 74,000 times since mutual obligations returned last month, with 9,100 people experiencing homelessness among those temporarily cut off from income support, The Guardian reports.
Department of Employment officials have revealed plans to give jobseekers a new “48-hour window” before their payments were put on hold, as they conceded the latest figures under the current system were “large”.
With an influx of new jobseekers, including some dealing with the system for the first time, figures provided to Senate estimates showed a total of 74,434 payment suspensions recorded between 28 September and 18 October.
About 7% of all jobseekers have experienced a payment suspension in those three weeks.
This included 9,100 people experiencing homelessness, 13,169 people with disabilities, 12,137 Indigenous jobseekers and 12,401 ex-offenders. Some welfare recipients will be included in several categories.
Challenged over the figures by the Greens senator Rachel Siewert, the employment minister, Michaelia Cash, said jobseekers could immediately call their provider and “have the situation rectified”.
“We suspended mutual obligations for a very long period of time,” Cash added. “They are still suspended in Victoria.”
Siewert said she was “at a loss to understand” how “suspending a homeless person’s payment in the midst of a recession will help them find work”.