The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council, Mission Australia and Anglicare Australia have called on the Commonwealth Government to recognise that unemployment benefit payments are not enough to cover the cost of living.
New figures released by the Social Policy Research Centre show that people surviving on Newstart and Youth Allowance would need up to $96 per week more to cover their regular expenses.
In a joint media statement released yesterday, Mission Australia chief executive officer, Catherine Yeomans said, “The figures show that Newstart and Youth Allowance are falling well short of the income that’s actually needed to cover bills, food and rent. This is leaving families and individuals with terrible choices, for example between paying the rent or putting food on the table.”
Ms Yeomans said people without an adequate income are "forced into unsuitable, and often, unsafe accommodation” because it is all they can afford.
“For so many people we support through our services, the crippling cost of rent is a significant proportion of their income," she said. “Small changes in their financial circumstance, such as an unexpected health cost or an increase in their electricity bill, can really affect their ability to pay rent, throwing them into precarious and stressful situations.”
Executive director of Anglicare Australia, Kasy Chambers said the report shows that "government payments are so low that they have become a poverty trap”.
“We need to increase Newstart and Youth Allowance as a matter of urgency, and ensure that they are a living wage for the people who rely on them.”
St Vincent de Paul Society National Council chief executive Dr John Falzon said the government needs to focus on income adequacy instead of income management.
“You don’t build people up by putting them down. You don’t help people into jobs by forcing them to live below the poverty line. You don’t address the structural causes of unemployment by punishing people. You don’t create an innovative economy or a fair society by allowing charity to become the default mode of delivering income support for people who bear the brunt of inequality.”
Mission Australia, Vinnies and Anglicare Australia say inadequate income support payments are leading to poverty (St Vincent de Paul Society)