ON THE JOB: Captain Ben Johnson from the Salvation Army and ’Work for the Dole’ Bundamba coordinator Greg Wilson inspect their latest project at Metro Hotel Ipswich International.
ON THE JOB: Captain Ben Johnson from the Salvation Army and ’Work for the Dole’ Bundamba coordinator Greg Wilson inspect their latest project at Metro Hotel Ipswich International. Rob Williams

Tackling region's job crisis is hard yakka for charities

DESPITE impressive job creation in the region, Ipswich remains in an unemployment crisis with charities getting resourceful to cater for a growing number in need.

Bundamba Salvation Army Corps officer Ben Johnson said the unemployment situation was the worst he had seen in his 15 years as a Salvation Army officer.

"There are more people that are finding it tough than I have seen in my experience in different areas. It is really tough in Ipswich at the moment," Captain Johnson said.

"We are seeing more and more different kinds of people coming through for welfare, particularly for assistance.

"They are people who are tradespeople, or they have had a work injury, they are waiting on payments to come through, all sorts of red tape that has them tied up that they can't afford to pay their bills."

Captain Johnson said they were seeing a broader cross-section of welfare recipients and the situation was dire, especially for those without skills and qualifications.

"There is a deal of depression and of hopelessness around people who have been unemployed for extended periods of time," he said.

"That is the thing we are trying to grapple with the most, how do we help people with their horizons and find a way forward."

Bundamba Salvation Army started a work-for-the-dole program 12 months ago in an effort to address the situation.

In the past two weeks the program has resulted in five participants finding work.

"There's a lot of stigma around work-for-the-dole programs but more and more we are seeing people who have qualifications coming through because of the changes in government policy. There are a lot more people who are required to do work for the dole," Captain Johnson said.

"These aren't unskilled people, they are just people that are in a tight spot at the time and if we can help them get back into employment and keep their head up through the process, we have done our job."

Their work-for-the-dole program involves up to 25 participants at a time with rolling contracts with government agencies.

It builds on previous programs that have been run by Riverview Salvation Army for several years.

"This program is aimed at getting people engaged in work activities to help with presentation and confidence, to give them realistic expectations of what can be expected of them in a work situation and practicing things like punctuality and work habits and acquiring different skills through the different types of contracts," Captain Johnson said.

"When we find someone with a skill base and they are a great participant, they usually leave us fquickly because they get work."

The main work is landscaping contracts, teaming with the Bundamba Salvation Army's Watch Them Grow nursery, a success story in its own right, budgeted to raise about $100,000 this financial year, which helps fund the group's community development programs and charity programs providing housing, food and clothing.

Work-for-the-dole program co-ordinator Greg Wilson said there were a number of skilled people accessing the program.

"We have welders, painters, people with carpentry and different trade skills, concreters. They are a real asset to the program and the work that we do," Mr Wilson said.

"It is always good to see when they do find that job and they get back on their feet again, we know we helped contribute in a positive way to them moving on."

The program completed a landscaping contract at Metro Hotel Ipswich International yesterday.

The hotel commissioned the Bundamba program to carry out a landscaping project after they hosted the Red Shield Appeal launch earlier this year and discovered the Watch Them Grow nursery.

Member for Blair Shayne Neumann, who hosted a recent jobs forum in Ipswich, said unemployment was "unacceptably high" in the region.

He said a lack of business confidence in the community, cuts to traineeship positions and cuts to TAFE played a big part.

"We've got 100,000 fewer apprenticeships in this country as a result of the decision of the Abbott-Turnbull governments to cut nearly $2 billion from job training programs like Youth Connections, Partnership Brokers and the Trade Training Centre program," Mr Neumann said.