JobSeeker recipients fear push back under poverty line
11 September 2020 at 4:51 pm
“I was starting to feel hopeful about retraining and finding work but now I’m just stressed thinking I won’t be able to climb out of poverty,” one survey respondent says.
Most people receiving government support payments fear they will have to skip meals and ration medications when the Coronavirus Supplement is reduced, a new survey reveals.
The latest Australian Council for Social Service (ACOSS) survey found that the Coronavirus Supplement – which has gone to around 2.3 million unemployed people, students, and parents – has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on people’s lives.
Over 80 per cent of the people surveyed reported eating better and more regularly, and 70 per cent said they had been able to catch-up on bills and expenses.
But with the supplement due to be slashed by $300 a fortnight on 25 September, reducing the payment from $1,100 a fortnight to $815, ACOSS said millions will be pushed into poverty.
The survey found that eight in 10 respondents said they would “definitely” have to skip meals and reduce the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables they buy, and over half said it would make it much harder to pay rent.
“I was starting to feel hopeful about retraining and finding work but now I’m just stressed thinking I won’t be able to climb out of poverty,” one respondent said.
In order to make ends meet financially, over half of the respondents said they would need to forgo essentials like food, medicine and other expenses.
Beyond December, the supplements may be removed completely, taking people without paid work back to the $40 a day or $565.70 a fortnight rate.
For one respondent, going back to the old JobSeeker rate would not only have a significant impact on their life, but their children’s lives too.
“My kids won’t be able to attend day care as I won’t be able to afford it, my older kids will miss out on school activities if there is a cost involved, and we won’t be able to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables, which will negatively impact their health,” a respondent said.
ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said the responses were “heartbreaking”.
“People are really struggling with the uncertainty of not knowing how they will cover the basics they need to get by, including their rent, with this devastating cut of $300 per fortnight just two weeks away and then another threatened at Christmas time,” Goldie said.
“The reality is that people on JobSeeker are supporting our fragile economy to rebuild by spending on essentials like food, rent, medical care and utility bills.”
She said the government needed to immediately extend the current income cuts in September, and legislate a permanent, adequate increase to social security payments at the next sittings of Parliament.
“The best way to support those hardest hit by the recession and support economic recovery and jobs is to provide the certainty of a permanent, adequate rate of JobSeeker and other social security payments without delay,” she said.