Charity sector calls for JobSeeker to be raised permanently
14 July 2020 at 8:00 am
Anti-poverty advocates say that welfare payments must be raised above the poverty line, following new survey findings
Failing to permanently raise the JobSeeker payment would condemn more than a million Australians into poverty and put a massive strain on struggling charity services, sector leaders warn.
New survey results from Anglicare Australia reveal that before the coronavirus supplement effectively doubled the JobSeeker payment, almost half (46 per cent) of the charity’s clients needed help getting basic essentials such as food or medicine, while 44 per cent had been using Anglicare services for more than a year.
The findings were released on Tuesday as part of the National Day of Action on JobSeeker, which has seen organisations including Australian Medical Association, Cancer Council Australia, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and People with Disability Australia sign a joint statement calling for a “permanent and adequate increase to JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and related payments”.
Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said these findings showed how under the old rate of JobSeeker – around $40 a day – people were forced to turn to charity just to get by.
Chambers told Pro Bono News that the payment must be permanently raised once the coronavirus supplement ends in September.
“This survey shows what life’s going to look like if the coronavirus supplement is wound back for the 1.6 million people on JobSeeker,” Chambers said.
“Most people we surveyed reported missing meals at least once a week. They were juggling which medications they could afford to take, and working out how they could afford their electricity bill.
“And of course, we know that people in private rental are by far the worst off because of the high cost of rent.”
Chambers said cutting JobSeeker could also force huge numbers of people to turn to charities for support.
With the sector already struggling during the pandemic due to increased demand and fundraising shortages, she said failing to raise the payment would put a severe strain on charities.
“We’ve seen decreases in fundraising and we were already operating under basically reduced contracts because federal contracts have no [Consumer Price Index] increase,” she said.
“The sector was already facing a perfect storm. And now we will now see increased clients, which will cause major headaches for the community sector and charities generally.”
While at the start of the year the community sector pushed for JobSeeker to be raised by $95 a week, the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic has led to calls for a more substantial increase.
Anti-Poverty Week and the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children on Monday urged the government to either extend the $550 a fortnight coronavirus supplement or increase payments to above the poverty line – which is $457 a week for a single adult.
Chambers said she would like to see the JobSeeker payment remain at its current coronavirus supplement rate.
She said this would not only put welfare recipients above the poverty line but also benefit the Australian economy.
“Clients are telling us that since the new rate came in, they haven’t needed to eat two minute noodles for dinner. They’ve not had to decide which medications they can afford to take,” she said.
“Whilst we recognise that’s a huge budget amount, it is also the best stimulus that the country could dream up.
“That money will go straight back into the local supermarket, into the local pharmacist, and boost the economy.”