Jesuit Social Services’ education, training and employment programs assist people who have had limited learning or job opportunities and face a range of barriers to inclusion, including mental ill-health, lower educational attainment, drug and alcohol misuse, disability or involvement in the criminal justice system.
Many of the people we work with struggle to obtain employment due to their criminal record, which can negatively impact their overall mental and physical well-being. We know that education and employment are key protective factors against involvement in the criminal justice system and help to mitigate feelings of disempowerment, seclusion and stigma. Recent research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that 54 per cent of people entering prison reported they were unemployed during the 30 days before being imprisoned, and around one in three prison entrants had a high-school education level of Year 9 or below.
Jesuit Social Services was pleased to make a submission to the Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee inquiry into a Spent Convictions Scheme in Victoria, due to report in late August. In our submission, we argued for the introduction of a spent convictions scheme in Victoria to ensure a person’s criminal record does not unfairly impact their ability to obtain employment and fully participate in society.
We also know of the importance of employment in contributing to positive mental health. Analysis of 12 of our key programs in 2018 showed that our program participants who had mental health concerns and were engaged in education or employment were more likely to:
People looking to enter or re-enter the workforce with complex challenges will need intensive, flexible and individualised training and support. Current initiatives that support disadvantaged jobseekers under the Jobs Victoria banner have enabled organisations such as Jesuit Social Services to work closely with individuals to address issues affecting their ability to secure employment and to maintain that employment.
The Jobs Victoria Employment Network (JVEN) is an example of an employment services scheme that is working well, with organisations such as Jesuit Social Services able to invest the time and resources needed by each individual, to develop and enhance their vocational skills and work readiness, and to secure a suitable work position with an employer. We recently highlighted the importance of these initiatives in our submission to a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into sustainable employment for disadvantaged jobseekers.
In our submission, we also recommended that Victoria’s major infrastructure projects be incentivised to employ people from local, disadvantaged communities who are struggling to find work. This is in line with the Victorian Government’s Social Procurement Framework, which is intended to embed considerations of social objectives in the government’s procurement processes.