The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today made a submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee Inquiry into the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Extension of Coronavirus Support) Bill 2020, calling for a permanent and adequate increase to the rate of JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and other income support payments.
ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “When the Federal Government introduced the Coronavirus Supplement of $550 per fortnight in April 2020, we saw income support payments for people out of work increase in real terms for the first time in over 25 years. We also saw these payments increase to a level above the poverty line, lifting thousands of people out of poverty.
“The Coronavirus Supplement has played a critical role in supporting the ACT community and our economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between December 2019 and June 2020, the number of people in the ACT receiving Newstart Allowance, Sickness Allowance, JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (Other) more than doubled, increasing by 122% – the highest rate of increase in Australia. Almost 23,000 people in the ACT are currently receiving income support payments that have been boosted by the Coronavirus Supplement.
“The $550 Coronavirus Supplement saw poverty rates decrease significantly across all regions of the ACT. When the rate was reduced by $300 per fortnight in late September 2020 (to $250 per fortnight), poverty rates increased to a level significantly higher than the pre-COVID-19 poverty rate. It is estimated that there are now around 38,000 people living in poverty in the ACT.
“Earlier this month, ACTCOSS condemned the Federal Government’s cut to income support payments over the Christmas holiday period. Reducing payments by a further $100 (to $150 per fortnight) from 1 January 2021 will widen and deepen poverty across the ACT and nationally.
“Our submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee today coincides with the National Day of Action against the cruel Christmas cut to the Coronavirus Supplement which will take away any chance for people doing it tough to start rebuilding their lives or even keep a secure roof over their head.
“In our submission, ACTCOSS has continued our call for the Federal Government to Raise the Rate for Good. An increase to the base rate of JobSeeker of $185-$275 per week would allow people to cover the essentials. There must be additional support for people in private rental, people with disability or illness and people with family caring responsibilities.
“The Explanatory Memorandum to the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Extension of Coronavirus Support) Bill 2020 notes that it engages with ‘the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for an individual and their family, and the continuous improvement in living conditions in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’.
“A social security system that pushes people into poverty clearly contravenes this right. We need to fix our social security system for good so that it keeps people out of poverty,” Dr Campbell concluded.
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.
For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.