The change, contained in the 2018 Budget, will save the government $68 million over the next four years.
Refugees were previously forced to take meetings with employment officers under Centrelink’s ‘jobactive’ program after three months on the dole.
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Most will now wait six months for the compulsory and intensive help, but some refugees who already have “good English” will be able to volunteer for some “light” assistance after six weeks.
A spokeswoman for the Jobs and Innovation department told SBS News the longer wait would impact around 3,500 refugees each year.
Jobactive is a familiar service for Australians who access welfare payments through Centrelink.
It connects dole recipients with private employment officers — reimbursed by the government — who help applicants improve their resume, offer interview tips and check on progress with job applications.
Many refugees rely on Centrelink payments when they first arrive in Australia, partly because — unlike skilled migrants sponsored by employers — they often speak little or no English on arrival.
The government said making refugees wait until they have spent six months on Centrelink before meeting with employment officers would help them “focus” on other services the government provides on arrival.
They include 510 hours of free English lessons and the Humanitarian Settlement Program, which teaches refugees about Australian society, including the legal system.
The department spokesperson told SBS News many refugees were “confused” by the number of government programs they were offered in their first six months.
“This measure will improve the sequencing of services available to refugees …. assisting refugees to focus on settlement and improving language skills during the first 26-week period of their arrival,” the Budget papers say.
The change will impact humanitarian visa holders accessing any income-tested payments from Centrelink.