Charities Say Inadequate Income Support Payments are Leading to Poverty
28 September 2017 at 10:22 am
Mission Australia, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council and Anglicare Australia say inadequate income support payments are leading Australians into poverty, which comes as a grassroots campaign in South Australia has seen six councils advocate for Newstart to be raised.
After new figures released by the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) showed people on Newstart and Youth Allowance needed up to $96 per week more to cover their regular expenses, these charities called on the federal government to recognise these payments need to be increased.
A summary report from the SPRC said the current payment model did not meet basic needs and should not be tolerated.
“These issues affect the living standards of all Australians and thus impact on the overall level of inequality, an issue that is assuming growing importance and attracting increasing attention,” the report said.
“It is difficult to see how any level of economic inequality can be tolerated by society if basic needs are not met at an acceptable level, particularly for those at the lower end of the labour market or out of work.”
Mission Australia CEO, Catherine Yeomans said the scheme meant families were having to make “terrible choices”, such as between paying the rent or putting food on the table.
“The figures show that Newstart and Youth Allowance are falling well short of the income that’s actually needed to cover bills, food and rent,” Yeomans said.
“Without an adequate income people are forced into unsuitable, and often, unsafe accommodation because it is all they can afford. In the worst cases, they can lose their on-going accommodation and be pushed into homelessness.”
The executive director of Anglicare Australia, Kasy Chambers, said this showed that government payments were “so low that they’ve have become a poverty trap”.
“Anglicare Australia’s own annual Rental Affordability Snapshot, along with our national food insecurity research, shows that people who rely on these payments cannot afford to pay for their most basic needs,” Chambers said.
“We need to increase Newstart and Youth Allowance as a matter of urgency, and ensure that they are a living wage for the people who rely on them.”
St Vincent de Paul Society national CEO, Dr John Falzon, added: “We need the government to focus on income adequacy instead of income management.
“You don’t build people up by putting them down. You don’t help people into jobs by forcing them to live below the poverty line. You don’t address the structural causes of unemployment by punishing people. You don’t create an innovative economy or a fair society by allowing charity to become the default mode of delivering income support for people who bear the brunt of inequality.”
One organisation leading the charge to increase Newstart is the Anti-Poverty Network SA.
There are currently running a campaign, with support from Uniting Communities and SACOSS, advocating for local governments to publicly support a raise to Newstart.
So far, seven councils across SA have passed motions calling for Newstart to be raised.
Anti-Poverty Network SA spokesperson Pas Forgione, told Pro Bono News these new findings from the SPRC highlighted the importance of their campaign.
“It adds to the pretty overwhelming body of evidence that suggests that Newstart is seriously inadequate,” Forgione said.
“And I think that lines up with what we know, that even if you can cover all of your needs [on Newstart] you have nothing left over for emergencies and you have no way of actually planning your finances and planning your life long term.”
Forgione said the public statement from Mission Australia, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council and Anglicare Australia showed “an overwhelming level of support for a raise to Newstart among the community sector”.
He added that while only the federal government can raise Newstart, that did not mean local government support was not important.
“There’s a direct connection there, that raising Newstart would reduce the strain on council community services and programs that support these people,” he said.
“The other thing is that local governments should be advocating on behalf of their residents on all manner of issues that affect them, regardless of whose responsibility it is.
“Take for example local councils flying the rainbow flag in support of the queer community. Now we know that local councils cannot change marriage, but they do that in support of and in solidarity with that section of their community.
“All these other organisations across Australia are calling for a raise, and we’re glad that so far seven councils across South Australia have passed motions calling for Newstart to be raised because that sends a very strong message.”
Forgione said that Anti-Poverty Network SA was now hoping to see support to raise Newstart coming from other states in Australia.
“What we also want to see is this sort of campaigning and lobbying activity happening in other parts of the country,” he said.
“We want to tell our friends in the grassroots community in Melbourne and Sydney and Brisbane to do the exact same thing, particularly in areas that had experienced higher unemployment, to put pressure on their councils to speak out.”