LOW BLOW: Nambour's Taco Boy owners Virginia Homer and Troy Hofstede are disappointed the Queensland Government's Back to Work program has been axed on the Sunshine Coast.
LOW BLOW: Nambour's Taco Boy owners Virginia Homer and Troy Hofstede are disappointed the Queensland Government's Back to Work program has been axed on the Sunshine Coast. Amber Hooker

Gutted owners fear for employees' futures

A NAMBOUR eatery's owners refuse to consider a future without two of their young staff, but after a vital employment program was axed on the Coast they might have no choice.

Virginia Homer and Troy Hofstede bought Taco Boy in Nambour four months ago, and recently hired Josh, 21, and Zoe, 23, via disability employment services under the Queensland Government's Back to Work program.

Mr Hofstede said they planned to offer the pair permanent work under the Department of Employment's advice they were eligible for financial assistance to cover 75 per cent of their wages.

But upon lodging their paperwork ahead of the stated June 30 deadline, the couple learned when the Queensland Government handed down its June 12 budget it had cut the program on the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Brisbane and Toowoomba.

The couple yesterday joined Shadow Employment Minister Fiona Simpson and Nicklin MP Marty Hunt to demand the government reverse the cuts to keep young people employed.

Minister for Employment Shannon Fentiman denied the LNP's claims the program had been cut in southeast Queensland, though the government's Back to Work website only lists the region's "eligible" local government areas as Logan, Scenic Rim, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Somerset and Moreton Bay as of July 1.

The program had grants of up to $20,000 to employers who hire eligible job seekers including young people and mature-age workers.

Ms Simpson said as of yesterday she had been contacted by five Sunshine Coast people who discovered they were ineligible for assistance upon lodging paperwork.

 

Nicklin MP Marty Hunt with Taco Boy owners Virginia Homer and Troy Hofstede and Shadow Employment Minister Fiona Simpson.
Nicklin MP Marty Hunt with Taco Boy owners Virginia Homer and Troy Hofstede and Shadow Employment Minister Fiona Simpson. Amber Hooker

She said the full impact was still unfolding and it was unknown at this time how many people could potentially lose their jobs amidst a "spike" in youth unemployment, from 10 to 14 per cent.

"It is shameful that young people who have battled adversity to get a job could now lose that opportunity," Ms Simpson said.

"We should be backing our young people, not sacking them."

Through their anguish, Virginia and Troy's faces light up when they spoke of the two young people they had employed about four weeks ago.

For Josh, it was his first job interview.

"And he got it," Virginia said, adding their future was now uncertain.

"We feel like we have lied to them."

Mr Hunt called for a level playing field, and questioned why young people on the Sunshine Coast should be treated different than those in areas the program remains.

Ms Fentiman said the government allocated $20.5 million in the budget to help areas in the south east experiencing labour market challenges, and said the Skilling Queenslanders for Work program offered up to $20,000 to employers to take on apprentices and trainees.



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