More than 120,000 welfare recipients who had their payments suspended last financial year were later found by their job agency to have had a valid reason for not meeting their obligations, according to data obtained by Guardian Australia.
The figures suggest the Jobactive provider of about one in five people who were temporarily cut from income support accepted that they had a reasonable excuse for missing an appointment or compulsory activity.
It comes amid a debate about the rate of Newstart and after Channel Seven’s Sunrise program sparked outrage last week over a “dole bludger” segment which cited reports saying 78% of people had their payments suspended.
The data showed that of the 744,884 participants on the flagship welfare-to-work scheme last financial year, 581,866 had their payments suspended for failing to meet their mutual obligations.
The Daily Telegraph story was later cited by the employment minister, Michaelia Cash, as evidence the government’s new compliance regime was working.
But departmental figures provided to Guardian Australia shows not all of those who had their payments temporarily cut off were found to be at fault.
Only 460,262 people were handed a “demerit point” by their job agency under the new system, meaning 121,604 people who had their income support suspended were found to have had a reasonable excuse.