Blacktown Council supports expanded Work for the Dole scheme

BLACKTOWN Council is supporting a proposal to involve councils in an expanded Work for the Dole scheme to start by the next financial year.

‘‘Council has previously engaged effectively with Commonwealth programs targeting unemployment, such as the Regional Employment Development in the mid-1970s, under which much valuable work was undertaken,’’ a Blacktown Council spokeswoman said.

‘‘It was under the RED scheme that Blacktown City’s first brick paving was laid in Blacktown CBD, along with kilometres of asphalt cycleways and concrete paving repairs across the city.’’

But Australian Local Government Association president Felicity-ann Lewis said councils need more information about what would be expected of them in terms of equipment, training, supervision and general resources.

The body represents 560 councils nationally, including Blacktown Council.

Ms Lewis said councils also needed advanced notice of local projects to be carried out by Work for the Dole participants, for budget purposes.

Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker said the government, not councils, would manage Work for the Dole participants and complete paperwork.

‘‘Council has always given great consideration to its role as a large employer within the Blacktown City community, and the responsibility that this brings,’’ Blacktown Council’s spokeswoman said.

‘‘For many years we have supported extensive work experience programs for people from a range of backgrounds who are seeking to either gain skills, compliment their education or serve the community in some way.

‘‘Historically, council has been able to accommodate people in these categories within our existing supervisory structures without compromising the valuable work performed by our employees.’’

The number of Australians receiving the Newstart Allowance — known as the dole — rose by 20 per cent last year with 805,398 people receiving unemployment benefits in November 2013.

Of those, 224,812 had been out of work for a year or longer.

Under the new scheme, non-profit aged care homes and charities would also be encouraged to recruit volunteers from the pool of  Newstart jobseekers, whose payments would be stopped if they turned down a job.

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