No income means no income, whether it’s 26 weeks or four weeks

The Federal Government should immediately abandon plans to cut unemployment benefits for young people under 30 for any period – whether for six months or one month – according to Australian Council of Social Service and the National Welfare Rights Network.

The Budget measure worth $1.2 billion would affect 113,000 unemployed people under 30 years of age.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “We strongly oppose any move to take vital life support income from young people in need, whether for six months or one month. The fact is this would represent a fundamental departure from the principle of basic support for all, in return for reasonable efforts to look for work.

“The proposal has no merit. Driving people into poverty by taking money away that they desperately need while they look for work simply makes no sense. It would only cause more hardship and swell the numbers of people knocking on the doors of charities seeking shelter, food, emergency relief and other support.

The National Welfare Rights Network’s Maree O’Halloran said: “The proposal to make some people under 30 wait six months every year before gaining access to the unemployment benefit was always both extreme and counter-productive.”

“Bargaining the proposal down to 28 days still leaves people without the support of family and friends in desperate need, particularly as a cascading number of other waiting periods will also be applied. The Government would be better placed to give up this proposal altogether and look to real solutions to the looming and pressing problem of youth unemployment,” Ms O’Halloran said.

“Australia’s social security system does not need the added complexity of another waiting period be it 28 days or six months. We already have the Liquid Assets Test Waiting Period (up to 13 weeks), Income Maintenance Period (often months, sometime more than a year) and Ordinary Waiting Periods. These are designed to make people live off their savings while looking for employment, before they can access income support.”

“It is our understanding that the New Zealand model expects all claimants for income support to serve a 28 day waiting period. If the Government has a desire to introduce such a waiting period for people under 30 years and then potentially to Age and Disability Support Pension recipients, Carers, Single Parents and Veteran Pension recipients, then it should test this whole New Zealand proposition with the public,” Ms O’Halloran added.

Dr Goldie said: “The starting point for policies that work to reduce youth unemployment is investing in the transition from school to paid work. This is where our focus should be. Many young people are not getting the career advice and support they need at school, and schools need to be better connected with local employers and support services. The Youth Connections program is providing that support, but in the same Budget that cuts unemployment payments for young people, that program lost its funding. Youth Connections had assisted over 74,000 young people since 2010, helping them in to study or paid work.

“We have welcomed the federal government’s announcement of wage subsidies to give long term unemployed young people a foot up in the tough jobs market. Wage subsidies in regular paid jobs are extremely effective and should be expanded.

“We also need to focus on addressing the barriers to employment for people disadvantaged in the labour market and work together with employers and unions to ensure that employment services are more effectively linked to employer needs and that funding is redirected to more targeted training and in-job support,” Dr Goldie said.

“With youth unemployment rates at around 20% in some electorates, the community wants our political leaders to assist unemployed people into jobs, not to make life harder. We urge our elected federal leaders to reject any proposal that deprives young people of crucial income, whether for six months or one month,” they concluded.

Media Comment:
Fernando de Freitas, ACOSS Media – 0419 626 155
Maree O’Halloran, National Welfare Rights Network – 0417 672 104
Gerard Thomas, Policy and Media Officer (NWRN)- 0448 007 201

Community groups demand halt to harmful Budget measures

Find out more about the Community Sector’s ongoing campaign against the harsh measures in the Federal Budget here.

Joint Community Sector Statement on Budget social security changes

ACOSS has released a statement signed by more than 100 community organisations from around the country expressing serious concerns about these unfair budget measures, and urged parliament to reject the proposals outright. 

DOWNLOAD PDF of Statement here.

Read accessible version of statement here and see list of signatories here.

SIGN statement by emailing [email protected]