Proposed Earn or Learn Budget Changes Could Affect Thousands on Workers Compensation



Concerns are raised that proposed budget changes could see workers compensation recipients enter into a cycle of poverty.

Sydney University researcher Dr Caroline Howe says the government’s earn or learn approach to welfare could adversely affect thousands on workers compensation recipients.

A lecturer in rehabilitation counselling, Howe told ABC radio that whilst she agrees “there are too many people on government pensions… cutting them off without adequate support could be socially disastrous.”

Howes worries that if the proposed changes were to be enforced many workers compensation recipients would have to make the move to Newstart or the Disability Support Pension. Those deemed to have some capacity to learn will have to work into the ‘earn or learn’ system, but for many that have been disengaged from work for too long the leap both physically and mentally could be too great.

“It seems like a fantastic incentive to say ‘earn or learn,'”Howes told ABC journalist Elizabeth Jackson “but you’re taking people that have been that disengaged from the workforce for a number of years that there’s fear, there’s anxiety, there’s stress involved.”

The system, Howes worries, would force those previously on workers compensation to compete for work despite being unattractive to potential employees.

“There’s nothing in place at the moment that helps employers deal with stereotypes around injury, stereotypes around ageing, stereotypes around psychological health, which comes as a result of having sustained injury for a long time. If I’m now found not eligible for a disability support pension, I’m also carrying a workers’ comp claim, and I’m 50, where do I go to get help?” said Howes.

The situation Howes presents is a cyclic one. Taking away the workers compensation safety net and moving those individuals into an ‘earn or learn’ situation where they’re forced to apply for jobs they’re under-skilled for and employers are inadequately equipped to help provide for them, could see an increase in homelessness, crime and substance abuse. Hostel and refuge services, already facing funding slashes in NSW, will also feel the pressure.

Are you currently receiving workers compensation or know someone who is? How do you think the proposed budget will affect your future?


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