Newstart Recipients Living in Poverty
21 October 2011 at 4:39 pm
If their income was reduced to $243 per week – the unemployment payment – more than 60% of Australians would stop buying fresh food and almost half would not visit a doctor when sick, the National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN) has revealed.
To highlight the difficult conditions faced by the 547,000 unemployed Australians receiving the $243 per week Newstart allowance, NWRN commissioned a survey of over 1000 Australians to find out what they would go without if they had to live on the unemployment benefit.
Maree O’Halloran, NWRN President, says the NWRN commissioned the poll to “shine a light on the quiet desperation that many hundreds of thousands of unemployed Australians experience on an ongoing basis.”
O’Halloran says if someone is on Newstart or Youth Allowance, by definition, they are living in poverty.
83% of respondents said they would drive less and 77% of respondents said they would cut back on electricity or gas usage.
Worryingly almost half (45%) would stop studying or training – reducing opportunities to find employment and move off Newstart.
NWRN says the findings confirm a warning by the OECD in 2010 that Australia’s unemployment benefit is already “so low as to raise issues about it effectiveness in providing financial resources needed to assist Australians find work or study”.
NWRN says that the OECD found that in 2008, single unemployed people in Australia were relatively the poorest of 30 nations ranked.
O’Halloran says unemployed people who make contact with Welfare Rights Centres across the nation are saying that it is getting harder and harder to make ends meet.
She says another NWRN survey released today show that Australians want the Newstart payment raised by $86 per week.
A survey of 500 people revealed that on average, respondents want the allowance increased to $329 per week.
Update: Research revealed in The Age shows that Australian households are struggling with high housing prices – with 10 per cent of households spending so much on rent or mortgage payments they have little left to cover other bills.
The study, by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at the University of Canberra, was commissioned by the group Australians for Affordable Housing, and reveals that one in four households are considered to be in "housing stress".