United Call for Increase to Income Support Allowances - ACOSS Campaign
16 February 2012 at 12:24 pm
Australia’s community sector is calling on the Federal Government to make improving the income and job prospects of people out of paid work a top priority for 2012.
The Australian Council Of Social Service, ACOSS, says there is a growing consensus in the wider community, ranging from business organisations, economists, the union movement, to the broad community and social services sector that the current rate of single Allowance payments is simply not enough for people to live on and is hindering their efforts to find paid work.
It says currently more than 600,000 people are living on the Newstart Allowance which is as low as $35 a day for a single adult, and 60% have lived on this payment for over a year. Altogether, over one million people rely on this and similar ‘Allowance’ payments.
Far from the stereotype of a 'lazy dole bludger', ACOSS says those people on the Newstart Allowance are actually among the most disadvantaged people in Australia.
- 1 in 3 are over 45 years of age
- 1 in 6 have been assessed as only able to work part time due to a disability, including mental illness
- 1 in 10 are from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander backgrounds
- 1 in 15 is a sole parent, needing affordable child care services and a job with family friendly hours
- 2 out of every 5 recipients has less than Year 12 qualifications
- 60% have received unemployment payments for over a year, and 25% for over 3 years
ACOSS says with no employment growth last year and the profile of people out of paid work becoming more disadvantaged (people with low skills, long periods out of paid work, disabilities, and of mature age) many will find it hard to secure a job without more help from employment services.
“Australia will need to employ more of its unemployed workers as the population ages and labour shortages increase over the medium term, but we don’t do enough to prepare them for employment. Job Services Australia providers are typically funded to offer an interview every two months and just $500-$1000 worth of training or work experience for each person looking for paid work long term, ” ACOSS chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
“If labour shortages become more widespread in the next few years, Australia will have a unique opportunity to meet economic and social needs at the same time by dealing with the problem of entrenched unemployment.”
In a Statement to the Federal Government ACOSS said: “The signatories urge the Government to increase Allowance payments for singles by $50 per week as recommended by the Henry Report and to strengthen its investment in employment services. Far from being a disincentive to find work, increasing the level of allowance payments will help lift a great many out of poverty and put them in a better position to participate in paid work.”
“By implementing the following measures, the Government will reduce the high social and fiscal costs of long-term unemployment and strengthen its employment participation agenda.
As a group, the signatories to this Statement call for:
- Increase Allowance payments – Increase the single rate of allowance payments by $50 per week. These include Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Widow Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Special Benefit, Austudy and ABSTUDY.
- Improve employment services for long term unemployment people – The Job Services Australia system should be reformed to make it more responsive to the needs of individual job seekers and employers, including by increasing the resourcing of JSA providers. Providers should be funded to assist people with work experience and training before they become long-term unemployed.
- Expand wage subsidy schemes – Double the number of places in the new wage subsidy scheme for people out of paid work long term to 20,000 in the program’s second year, and introduce a scheme that fully subsidises up to 6 months of paid employment for the most deeply disadvantaged jobseekers (including through social enterprises).
- Make VET work for jobseekers – Earmark a substantial number of training places under the new national VET scheme for jobseekers, together with new incentives and resources for training organisations to adapt training to the needs of jobseekers and work more closely with employment services.
- Lock in supports for jobseekers in deeply disadvantaged areas – In areas of high and entrenched levels of unemployment, the Government should negotiate with States and Territories to supplement funding for employment, health, housing and community services to encourage them to work together to build pathways to employment for those with multiple social disadvantages.
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