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Australia’s welfare system failing to protect vulnerable people


4 December 2019 at 4:27 pm
Luke Michael
New research says low welfare payments are driving people into poverty and homelessness


Luke Michael | 4 December 2019 at 4:27 pm


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Australia’s welfare system failing to protect vulnerable people
4 December 2019 at 4:27 pm

New research says low welfare payments are driving people into poverty and homelessness

Australia’s social security system is increasing, rather than decreasing, the risk of homelessness for welfare recipients, according to a new report.

The research, from the National Society Security Rights Network and Canberra Community Law, explored the experiences of 567 recipients in the Australian Capital Territory and found that “extremely low” Centrelink payments were driving people into poverty.

The cases detailed in the report included people sleeping rough, people unable to pay their rent, and those who were forced to sleep on couches, in their cars or in the living rooms of friends and family.

Report author Sophie Trevitt said people with disability, single mothers escaping violence, and Indigenous people were disproportionately affected by low welfare payments and public housing shortages. 

“People on the Newstart Allowance are struggling to live on less than $40 a day,” Trevitt said.

“They are entirely cut off from the private rental market; and with extremely long wait times for public housing, many were forced to sleep in their cars, in the living rooms of friends and families, in parks, caravans and refuges.”

The report also found that the government’s issuing of robodebts often hurt the most vulnerable welfare recipients who were living in insecure housing.

Trevitt said she welcomed the government’s recent announcement that it was revising the scheme.

“However, robodebt is only one part of a system of often punitive, difficult to navigate and inadequate social security measures that drive vulnerable people further into poverty, put their tenancies at risk, and contribute to the rising rates of homelessness around the country,” she said.

The report has called on the government to immediately raise the rate of Newstart, Family Tax Benefit and Rental Assistance.


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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