Four Week Waiting Period Faces Battle in Senate
13 August 2015 at 11:39 am
The Australian social sector has called on the Senate to vote down the “harsh” Abbott Government proposal to withhold income support from young people for four weeks.
Meeting in Darwin, Australia’s peak community sector bodies, ACOSS and the state and territory Councils of Social Service, issued a joint statement calling for the end of the four week waiting period for people under the age of 25.
"We call on Senators to reject these changes which will only cause greater financial distress and an additional barrier for people to get back into paid work,” the group said.
"With just one job available for every five people looking for paid work, the focus should be on addressing the lack of job opportunities, which is the key driver of rising unemployment, especially long term unemployment.
"What we need is a national jobs plan for our nation – one that goes to address the structural problem of shrinking job opportunities around the country.”
The group said unemployed long term face additional barriers to getting a job, including a lack of recent work experience, and a mismatch of skills with jobs available.
"People still have housing, transport, food and utility costs during this four week period. Lack of income support forces many people to seek financial support from community emergency assistance services, already overstretched and dealing with cuts from the Department of Social Services,” they said.
"What is required is targeted investment in adequate supports for people locked out of the labour market, not depriving people of income support at the time they need it most."
Both the Greens and Labor have said they will vote against the legislation, meaning it will come down to how the handful of independent Senators vote.
In a Senate Inquiry last week, Department of Social Services officials confirmed that the four week waiting period was not based on any international evidence.
Nonetheless, a majority report by the inquiry said that the Bill should be passed.
Greens spokesperson on Community Services, Senator Rachel Siewert, said her party had tabled a dissenting report outlining their opposition to the Social Security bill.
“We strongly disagree with the recommendation in the majority report that the measures be passed. Given the weight of evidence showing that the measures in this bill are detrimental we can only conclude that the Majority report conclusions are based on ideology rather than on evidence,” Senator Siewert said.
“The measure forcing young people under 25 to wait for income support represents a new attack on our young people.
“While the Government's previous measures have been watered down in response to the enormous community backlash, the denial of income support to young people for four weeks cannot be justified by evidence given to the Committee.
“A range of submitters pointed out that youth unemployment is a significant structural problem. It is cruel of the Government to pursue this legislation when there isn't enough work for young people.”
Shadow Minister for Families and Payments, Jenny Macklin, said Labor Senators would be voting against the measures.
“Labor Senators yesterday called on the Senate to reject the Government’s proposed cuts to young jobseekers, following a Senate Inquiry into the legislation,” Macklin said.
“The Abbott Government is knowingly pushing young people into poverty.
“Changes to the eligibility age for Newstart will also push jobseekers between the ages of 22 and 24 onto the lower Youth Allowance – a cut of around $48 a week or almost $2,500 a year.
“Major community and welfare organisations are united in their condemnation of Tony Abbott’s plan to push young people into poverty and hardship.
“Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison know these Bills have the potential to confine young people to an endless cycle of no income support at all, pushing many young jobseekers into poverty, crisis and homelessness.”
The Senate is expected to debate the Bill this week.