The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has called on the Federal Parliament to increase the JobSeeker payment by at least $25 a day on top of the old Newstart rate of $40 a day. ACTCOSS made this call in a submission to the Senate Community Affairs Committee inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Income Support) Bill 2021.
Dr Emma Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO, said: “The Morrison Government’s proposal to increase JobSeeker by a measly $3.57 a day from 1 April is shameful. It will leave people struggling to make ends meet on just $44 a day.
“Our submission calls for the JobSeeker payment to be increased to at least $65 a day. This would lift millions of Australians – and tens of thousands of Canberrans – out of poverty.
“A miserly increase of just $3.57 a day would leave a single Canberran on JobSeeker with just $312 per week for essentials of life such as housing, food, transport and medical expenses. This is $145 below the poverty line of $457 per week for a single person and well below the amount needed to survive in a city with high costs of living.
“Before COVID-19 and the introduction of the Coronavirus Supplement, Canberrans living on the old Newstart payment told us how they experienced housing, food and health stress due to lack of an adequate income.
“A single mother receiving income support told us how she consistently skipped meals during her pregnancy as she could often only afford to eat once a day.
“Another woman told us how she paid $175 per week on rent, which left just $100 for food, electricity, medication, phone, internet and travel, leaving nothing to treat her medical condition which was the reason she was unable to work.
“In uncertain times, any of us could be impacted by unemployment. During COVID-19, the proportion of the ACT population looking for work while receiving on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance more than doubled, increasing at the highest rate in Australia and peaking at just under 15,000 people. Today, at over 12,000, this figure is still almost double the pre-COVID level.
“Our submission highlights how the introduction of the Coronavirus Supplement in April 2020, at a rate of $550 per fortnight, saw poverty rates fall across the ACT. Subsequent reductions in the supplement in September and December returned working age social security payments below the poverty line resulting in the number of people living in poverty increasing significantly above pre-COVID levels.
“Services and community organisations in the ACT have expressed concern to ACTCOSS that the impending reduction in income support payments as the Coronavirus Supplement ends will result in financial stress, increased mental health crises and incidents of family violence.
“Alongside the terrible human impact of returning to below-poverty social security payments, we note broader economic impacts for the ACT. Based on the number of Canberrans currently receiving working-age social security payments, we estimate that the removal of the $150 per fortnight Coronavirus Supplement and the introduction of a $50 per fortnight increase to payments would see a loss of around $2 million each fortnight from the ACT economy from 1 April 2021.”
Dr Campbell concluded: “We implore all members of the Federal Parliament, including our ACT representatives, to reject the proposed JobSeeker payment increase of just $3.57 a day and commit to a permanent increase in social security payments above the poverty line, including increasing the JobSeeker rate to at least $65 a day.”
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.