Thursday, June 17, 2004

The dole-go-round

Ah, the sweet changing of the seasons, of which for a long-term unemployed person in this neck of the woods, there are but two annually – six months of “mutual obligation” activity, followed by six months of “intensive assistance”, followed by six months of “mutual obligation”, etc.

I have just finished my “intensive assistance” period, which probably contrary to outsider expectations, and the everyday meaning of the word, is a time for lying fallow – under IA, dole forms only have to be lodged monthly, and the jobs-gone-for section on the forms goes out the window. Don’t ask me why – all I know is that it suited me, and I’m sure as hell it also suited Sarina Russo (my IA provider), whose property portfolio must be getting ever-fatter, thanks to such nice little taxpayer-funded farces.

Regular readers may, however, be puzzled at this point: haven’t I just been working for the past few months? Most definitely "yes", and earning too much to get even part-dole, at that However, because of previous experience, in spending months trying to get on the dole after a sessional contract had ended (Centrelink wouldn’t budge unless I provided a termination letter, and the uni had never heard of a sessional academic getting such a thing), I decided to keep putting my forms in this time, just to be on the safe side*. This decision was also made easier by the coincidence that I was in IA at the time – I didn’t have to fill out any jobs-gone-for section (which is otherwise a definite requirement if you’re lodging a form, even if you’re working mega-hours at the time. Again, don’t ask why.)

Anyway, also coincidentally, my six months in IA and my three months in gainful employment have ended together, leaving me staring at six months of “mutual obligation”, even before I’ve got my first cent from Centrelink since February. Through some fancy footwork, I managed to put off this day of destiny – aka signing a Preparing for Work Agreement – by a few days. So what, you ask? The difference is that I turn 40 in the interim (this weekend), and Work for the Dole** for the over-39s is a “light duties” type proposition (of about one-third the hours that the under 40s have to serve). Yay, for the first time in my life, I get to play the old-and-feeble card!

I’m also glad that I put off til next week going into Centrelink to sign a new Preparing for Work Agreement, because the other day I got a quite similar letter, requiring me to (probably) sign a quite separate Preparing for Work Agreement – on the same day (but different time), this time at my local Sarina Russo premises. Yay for bureaucratic confusion! (I don’t mind; I’ve got all day to traipse along to both, and it’s easier to turn up in person, than to try and convince someone at Centrelink’s call centre – assuming you can get through, that is – that their computers have gone nutso on my case). And yay for Centrelink taking outsourcing (and so Sarina’s bank balance) one step further – this sort of redundant duplication is so new that it’s not even mentioned, as part of the “One to One Service” those signing PWAs are promised on Centrelink’s website. And finally, yay for Sarina Russo – after six months of fruitlessly giving me “intensive assistance”, they’ve generously decided to take-over some of Centrelink’s paper-work on my case, despite having no formal basis to do so (AFAIK, I am an ex-customer of theirs, and if I’m wrong on this, I sure as hell soon will be - an ex-customer, that is).

For the record, I’ve scanned and reproduced both letters, below.

* If you don’t put forms in, then you go off Centrelink’s books completely.

** As I wrote recently, there are other way of meeting “mutual obligation” apart from doing WfD, choices attractive in comparison, in fact, for almost everybody except those who are, like me, already educated and trained up to our eyeballs.


[Centrelink letterhead]

4 June 2004

Mr Paul J Watson

Dear Mr Watson

You need to come to an interview with us to discuss issues arising from your recent completion of a Centrelink Approved Activity or Program. An appointment has been made for you with a Customer Service Officer.

At this interview you will be required to negotiate and sign a Preparing for Work Agreement, which is an Activity Agreement under the Social Security Act 1991.

Please come to:

Date: 22 June 2004

Time: 03:00 pm


• If you have a Jobseeker diary, please bring it to the interview with you.
• You are required under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 to attend this Interview.
• If you don’t attend this appointment or make other arrangements, your payments may be stopped. If you start receiving payments again it may be paid at a reduced rate.
• Please bring this letter with you when you come to the interview.

If this time does not suit you, please get in touch with us within the next three days to make new arrangement. Our address and phone number are at the top of this letter.

At this interview you will be required to negotiate and enter into a Preparing for Work Agreement.

A Preparing for Work Agreement is an Activity Agreement under the Social Security Act 1991.

Failure to enter into an Activity Agreement without a reasonable excuse may result in your payments being stopped or reduced for a period of time.


Please read the back of this letter. It tells you what you should have with you for the interview.


[Centrelink letterhead]

9 June 2004

Mr Paul J Watson

Dear Mr Paul Watson

We have arranged an interview for you with Sarina Russo Job Access (Australia) so that you can discuss the services you are receiving through Job Network.

The purpose of this interview is to negotiate a new Job Search Plan to help you reach your employment goals.

During this interview you may also be required to enter a Preparing for Work Agreement which is a Newstart Activity Agreement under the Social Security Act 1991. Your Job Search Plan forms part of your Preparing for Work Agreement.

Your interview is at:
Time: 11:30 am
Date: Tuesday 22 June 2004
Place: ********

Under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 you must attend this interview.

If you do not attend this interview your Newstart Allowance may be stopped or reduced for a period of time.

Under the Social Security Act 1991 if you do attend the interview but fail to negotiate a Preparing for Work Agreement, your payment may be stopped or reduced for a period of time

If you are unable to attend the interview or want to talk about this letter, please call Sarina Russo Job Access (Australia) on ******** before the interview. If necessary, another interview time can be made.

If you have special needs for the interview, such as an interpreter or special building access, please call the above number before the interview, so that arrangements can be made.

We wish you well in your job search.

Centrelink Customer Service Centre Manager

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