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SA jobless exempt from Centrelink mutual obligations during lockdown

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UPDATED: The federal government has paused mutual obligation requirements for job seekers in South Australia for eleven days and says it will temporarily provide additional support for SA-based NDIS participants and providers amid the latest lockdown.

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Employment minister Michaela Cash said South Australian job seekers would not face payment suspensions or financial penalties for failing to meet their mutual obligation requirements between November 18 and November 29.

It follows yesterday’s announcement by the Marshall Government that the state would go into a hard six-day lockdown, with many industries and businesses shut down and only one person from each household per day allowed to leave the house to purchase food or essential supplies.

South Australians can also leave the house to attend medical services or purchase supplies for vulnerable members of the community.

JobSeekers on Centrelink’s JobActive program will not be required to leave the house to attend appointments with employment providers.

As part of their mutual obligations – which are a range of measures job seekers are required to meet in order to receive their low-income payments – low-income earners have previously been required to participate in a range of activities including attending appointments.

While mutual obligations were temporarily wound down during the pandemic, from July they were reintroduced in three stages.

As of September 28, job seekers could be punished, and have their payments temporarily cut, for not engaging with the privately-run job service providers and looking for a minimum of two jobs a week.

Cash said despite the pause on obligations, job seeker and those participating in the ParentsNext program were “encouraged to remain connected to employment services to ensure they are supported to access the full range of assistance including mental health services, if required”.

“The Australian Government will continue to closely monitor the situation in South Australia,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert urged South Australians to use the agency’s online services rather than visiting a centre.

“Service centres will remain open for vulnerable members of the community if they need to access immediate support they’re unable to complete online or over the phone,” Robert said.

“If people can’t use Services Australia’s online services, they can call their main payment line for assistance. People can also call 131 202 to speak to Services Australia in their language.

“In line with the latest health advice, there will be strict limits on the number of staff and customers who can be in a service centre at any one time and anyone visiting must wear a face covering.”

He said South Australian NDIS participants and providers would also be provided temporarily assistance during the lockdown.

He said participants and providers would be able to “directly claim the costs of personal protective equipment (PPE), including face masks”, during the coronavirus restrictions period.

Robert said the NDIA and government would continue to review the measures as the pandemic progressed.

He said the temporary measures included:

He said NDIS participants who had questions or whose circumstances may have changed were encouraged to contact the NDIA on 1800 800 110.

NDIS providers who had questions about delivering quality and safe supports and services to NDIS participants during the coronavirus pandemic should contact the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission on 1800 035 544.

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