Councils support revival of scheme

 TASMANIAN councils would support receiving unpaid work from the unemployed under a revived work-for-the-dole program, but only if the cost-benefit ratio stacked up.

Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker yesterday flagged reinstatement of the Howard-era scheme, which could see Newstart recipients work for their benefits.

It is expected that recipients would undertake civic maintenance duties, like cleaning reserves and rubbish collection, and perform odd jobs for not-for-profit organisations and nursing homes.

Local Government Association of Tasmania president Barry Easther said councils could benefit from the program's reintroduction through small maintenance jobs, though to the detriment of commercial contractors.

He said councils should not be burdened by associated costs, however, and that the federal government should cover workers' compensation and training costs for work-for-the-dole participants.

``There will be costs involved to local government but I'm sure that local councils would look seriously at any opportunity,'' Mr Easther said.

TasCOSS chief executive Tony Reidy said the re-emergence of the work-for-the-dole program was disappointing.

He said jobseekers would be distracted from finding meaningful employment through being forced to perform menial and temporary tasks.

Mr Reidy said Tasmania had the highest rate of volunteerism in Australia, which meant that thousands of people in receipt of some form of benefit already participated in community work for charitable organisations.

He urged the federal government to instead look at boosting the fortnightly Newstart allowance.

``People on Newstart are living on an average of $35 a day, which is about 60 per cent below the poverty line,'' Mr Reidy said.

``Instead of directing money into a punitive scheme, we'd like to see immediate attention to benefits to give people enough income to actually seek a job.''

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