‘We need to overhaul the system’: Welfare advocates say JobSeeker must be raised permanently
8 December 2020 at 8:00 am
A new survey reveals that the pre-COVID JobSeeker rate left 41 per cent of recipients with just $7 a day after paying rent
All the gains made from the temporary JobSeeker increase will be put at risk if the government goes ahead with plans to cut the payment after Christmas, a new report says.
Anglicare Australia conducted a national survey of 618 welfare recipients between July and November, which found that the JobSeeker coronavirus supplement has had a major positive impact on the lives of low-income Australians.
Before JobSeeker was temporarily increased, three quarters of people (72 per cent) were regularly skipping meals every week, while over a third (41 per cent) were left with less than $7 a day after accounting for rent payments.
After the COVID boost, the percentage of people living on $7 a day halved, and 58 per cent of respondents said new payment rates would help them move into more stable housing if made permanent.
This survey report was launched amid parliamentary debate over looming cuts to the JobSeeker payment.
The coronavirus supplement was originally set at $550 per fortnight in March, but was reduced to $250 in September and will fall to $150 at the end of December before ending completely on 31 March 2021.
Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said this survey showed that these cuts cannot be allowed to go ahead.
She said it should be a scandal that so many people were forced to skip meals so often.
“Some people we surveyed were couch surfing and skipping meals every day. With so little money, they simply had no choice,” Chambers said.
“The government must raise the rate for good to stop condemning these Australians – and their children – to a life of poverty.”
The survey also revealed broad dissatisfaction with Australia’s welfare system.
Only 13 per cent of respondents believed that their Centrelink mutual obligations were helping them find paid work, with 79 per cent labelling these activities pointless.
Despite this, three quarters (74 percent) of respondents said they would be willing to do Centrelink tasks that were fair, especially if these activities led to work.
Chambers said it was time to stop punishing people for being out of work, and start giving them the support they need.
“We need to overhaul the system. We have a system that forces people to run a gauntlet of interviews, reporting, and administration that isn’t leading to work,” she said.
“Lynchpins of the system, like work for the dole and Jobactive, have repeatedly been shown to fail – and they waste millions of dollars a year. This survey shows that people on the coalface know it.”