‘It’s just heartbreaking’: Newstart recipients turned away from homelessness services
2 September 2019 at 2:13 pm
Homelessness services are being forced to turn away hundreds of people every day, as they struggle to deal with a surge in Newstart recipients seeking help.
The number of people on Newstart seeking homelessness services has risen by 75 per cent over the past six years – from 30,761 in 2011-12 to 54,066 people in 2017-18.
This spike has easily outpaced growth in the number of Newstart recipients, which rose by 28 per cent over the same period.
Homelessness Australia – which undertook the analysis – is calling for both Newstart and Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) to be increased, so people can afford basic housing costs in the private rental market.
Jenny Smith, Homelessness Australia chair, said services were struggling to cope with the “alarming” increase in demand.
“Presentations to homelessness services is going up by around 4 per cent a year generally, but with Newstart recipients it has risen by 75 per cent,” Smith said.
“Our service providers – who have had no additional funding from the federal government in the last decade – are doing it very tough.
“They do their best to try and offer housing outcomes to people. But having to turn away hundreds of people a day, it’s just heartbreaking.”
Newstart – which pays around $40 a day for a single person – has not been raised in real terms since 1994.
The Morrison government is facing intense pressure to heed the Australian Council of Social Service’s (ACOSS) call to raise the payment by $75 a week.
ACOSS has also called for the maximum rate of CRA to be increased by 30 per cent – around $20 a week.
Smith noted that since Newstart was last increased in real terms, the median weekly cost of private rent has risen by 166 per cent, from $139 to $370 in 2017-18.
“The repercussions of Newstart payment levels staying stagnant in real terms can be clearly seen in the number of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness while receiving this supposed ‘safety net’ payment,” she said.
“According to Anglicare’s most recent Rental Affordability Snapshot, only two properties listed for rental across Australia were affordable for single people on Newstart.
“Meanwhile, 40 per cent of people receiving CRA still pay more than 30 per cent of their income in rent, which defines housing stress for low-income households.”
The Senate is set to hold an inquiry into Newstart, examining the rate of payment and looking at alternative ways to set the level of income support in Australia.