Aboriginal leader and Labor senator Pat Dodson says the Community Development Programme (CDP) work-for-the-dole scheme is a “national shame”.

Senator Dodson said the CDP has actually driven up poverty and crime in some remote Indigenous communities.

“People are going hungry because they can't access the bureaucracy that goes with the Centrelink system,” he said.

“[That is] leading to kids young people breaking and entering, getting into trouble with the law, because they're hungry, because their parents or people aren't accessing the system.

“It's a national shame in my view.”

The CDP covers about 33,000 jobless people, forcing them to work 25 hours a week to receive payments, several times longer than jobseekers in metro areas.

“There's got to be far greater participation by the local community in the delivery of these things, in the strategies to identify the jobs and the work that are capable of being done,” Senator Dodson said.

“But if they're operating from afar, this is a recipe for disaster, and it's proving to be so; those fines are an indication of that.

“This needs serious and radical reform.”

The West Australian senator recently spoke about CDP with communities in Kalgoorlie and surrounding areas.

The programme punishes participants for failing to turn up to work, charging penalties of between $48 and $57 from people who receive unemployment benefits of typically less than $290 a week.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has issued statement saying the criticism “was not borne out by the facts”.

“Contrary to what Labor and the Greens are saying, the CDP is successfully delivering long-term employment outcomes and the impact of penalties on jobseekers has been minimal,” he said.

“The CDP has had a transformational impact on many thousands of remote jobseekers.”

Of about 33,000 people in the CDP, less than 3,500 have found full-time or part-time work lasting six months or more, according to Senate committee evidence.