Submission to the Workforce Australia Inquiry: Pre-Employment Programs and ParentsNext

December 19, 2022

Work and Workers

This submission focuses on pre-employment programs, and specifically examines the role of ParentsNext in providing early intervention services to disadvantaged parents as part of the employment services system.

The submission considers the introduction of ParentsNext in light of the government’s 25-year-old activation policy, which has also governed the design, contracting and delivery of other pre-employment and employment programs, including Workforce Australia. Our historical overview explains how both in its premise and in practice ParentsNext is a failed program. Our February submission to the Workforce Australia inquiry will recommend a fairer and more integrated employment service system that can better serve all people whose life transitions and challenges take them in and out of the search for work.

In this submission we conclude that ParentsNext is overweighted towards compulsory attendance and participation. It is too focused on managing parents’ behaviour and time use, and it assigns to a complex web of government agents and information system processes the power to cause uncertainty, stress and harm, by suspending payments for non-attendance backed up by the risk of payment cancellation. The activities the program proposes and includes in participants’ plans are too limited and are driven more by mutual obligation requirements than by an effective strategy to encourage and enable preparation for employment.