Education and employment key to overcoming disadvantage

Jesuit Social Services works with people who are often frustrated at the lack of access to job opportunities. This is most acute for people from disadvantaged backgrounds who often lack employment experience.

Research by the Productivity Commission notes that more than 30 per cent of people who are unemployed experience deep social exclusion. In a recent report, Brotherhood of St Laurence identified that youth unemployment and disadvantage are continuing to increase in particular communities while continuously decreasing in others.

This is consistent with Jesuit Social Services’ 2015 Dropping Off the Edge report, which similarly highlighted that the most severely disadvantaged postcodes experience higher unemployment rates than the national average.

Education, training and employment play a powerful role in addressing many of the overlapping issues facing disengaged, highly vulnerable people in our community. Through a place-based framework, unemployment can be seen as a key component of disadvantage which demands a holistic response.

We know the value of this approach.

For example, the Victorian Government’s place-based Neighbourhood Renewal program, launched in 2002, worked across government, in partnership with local residents, businesses and the community sector, combining social investment, service coordination and community involvement in decision making.

Jesuit Social Services provided the community development component for Neighbourhood Renewal at a number of sites.

A 2008 evaluation of the program found that Neighbourhood Renewal reduced disadvantage and narrowed the gap between renewal areas and the rest of the state, as well as lowering unemployment, increasing further education qualifications, and raising perceived levels of community participation.

Based on our research and practice experience, we have called on governments around Australia to develop long term place-based initiatives targeted to communities of greatest disadvantage.

One of the ways we hope to achieve this is through a network of local employers who have expressed a strong desire to set up targeted employment pathways for local and disadvantaged people in Mount Druitt, in particular in Willmot.

In Mount Druitt, our relationships with long-term unemployed people have grown alongside networks providing employment preparation, training and support. Yet there is still a component missing. We have identified the need for a dedicated and skilled person, working in the community, to combine these resources to create an accessible pathway to successful local employment, and work to reduce place-based and entrenched disadvantage. As outlined in our submission to the NSW Budget, we hope the NSW Government will invest in establishing such positions.

Involving the community, local industry and employers to create real jobs and pathways to employment – particularly for young people – can result in lasting benefits, and we look forward to working with Governments across Australia to adopt innovative approaches that will help get our most marginalised citizens into work.