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No happy New Year for people hit by benefit changes

1 January 2013

For many, 2013 will not be a happy New Year. A large number of people will be much worse off following changes to Centrelink benefits coming into effect today (January 1).

The Australian Council of Social Service and National Welfare Rights Network say changes to the Parenting Payment, Youth Allowance, Austudy and other benefits will have the greatest impact on people trying to survive on low-incomes.

"The changes impact more than 80,000 people," said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie. "This includes 60,000 single parent families receiving Parenting Payment.

"Single parents will see a cut of between $60 and $110 per week. This will have a devastating impact on single parent families and their children. These families are already struggling as they live below the poverty line.

"Single parents whose youngest child is over eight and partnered parents with their youngest over six will now only have Newstart or other benefits to rely on if they are eligible for them. Newstart is paid at a much lower rate than Parenting Payment. These cuts should be delayed until Newstart is increased," Dr Goldie said.

Young people continue to be poorly supported as they study or search for work. Young people over 18 and mature age students on Austudy see their fortnightly payment increase by just $4.80 today to a total payment of only $203 per week.

National Welfare Rights Network Vice President Ms Kate Beaumont said, "Many young people will receive just 18 cents extra a day. Unfair indexation must be addressed and rates of payment increased for young people living independently.

"Many young people face ongoing financial difficulties and severe financial stress. Low rates of payments add weight to calls from business, welfare groups, the ACTU and the OECD to increase unemployment and student payments by $50 a week.

"Current indexation arrangements are failing younger Australians, and the rate of Youth Allowance falls far short of the accepted poverty line," Ms Beaumont said.

ACOSS and the National Welfare Rights Network said politicians must focus on two key areas as a priority in 2013 - an increase in Newstart and greater support for employment services. Both these measures must target those most needing support and people who are most disadvantaged.

For interviews and more information:
Australian Council of Social Service, 0419 626 155
National Welfare Rights Network, 0425 296 882

Find out more about the $35 a day is not enough! campaign, and more info on Single Parent Payment cuts.