Unemployment Payments, the Activity Test and Indigenous Australians: Understanding Breach Rates

Author/editor: Sanders, W
Publisher: CAEPR
Year published: 1999


National level statistics indicate that unemployment payment recipients who identify as Indigenous are 'breached' more frequently than other recipients for not complying with the 'activity test' or other administrative requirements. This monograph attempts to understand why this is so and what can be done about it. It does so by further interrogating the administrative statistics, by age, gender and sub-national geographic levels and by drawing on discussion session convened in 20 localities across Australia.

The research observes consistently higher Indigenous breach rates across age groups and genders, but some degree of regional and State/Territory variation. It argues that this geographic variation is to be expected given the different operating environments and economic of various areas. It argues that there are inevitable tensions and ambiguities, as well as different office cultures and roles within income support administa5tion, and that this is a cultural and social content to all social security rules and procedures, plus a great diversity of unemployed people; all of which may contribute to differences in breach rates.

The analysis identifies a number of issues raised by participants in discussion sessions which may be contributing to higher Indigenous reach rates, such as literacy and mobility, confidence in and with government bureaucracies and CDEP scheme administrative arrangements. It also identifies adaptations to the circumstances of Indigenous people which have already been made within social security administration, in particular the appointment of Indigenous-identified staff and the use of third-party intermediaries in services delivery. The research makes a number of suggestions for further adaptations which may help lower Indigenous breach rates, including a ëno correspondence clientí facility, more of a case officer approach, more small satellite offices and greater use of more individually-tailored activity test agreements.

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