Establish a minimum income floor
ACOSS urges the Federal Government to lift unemployment, student, and parenting payments to a minimum of $70 per day so that everyone, no matter their circumstances, has a minimum level of income to cover food, housing, utilities, and healthcare. Payments (including family payments) must be lifted in line with wage as well as price growth and a Social Security Commission should be established to provide ongoing advice to the parliament on payment settings including adequacy. ACOSS also recommends that eligibility criteria be extended to temporary visa holders and international students if they are otherwise eligible, for the duration of the pandemic.
Commonwealth Rent Assistance
The maximum rates of CRA should be benchmarked to minimum rents, for dwellings of appropriate size, available in the formal rental market in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. In recognition that many other parts of Australia have high median rents, the higher maximum rates would not be restricted to residents in those cities. Rather, rents in those three cities (which together comprise most rental dwellings across the country) would be used for benchmarking purposes. Current benchmarks show that an increase of about 50% to the maximum rates is the minimum required to bring CRA up to a more acceptable level.
Disability and Illness Supplement
We propose that people with a disability or illness receive a supplement that recognises the additional costs they face because of that disability or illness. It has been well established that disability and illness incur additional costs, including healthcare, transport, and housing costs.
This supplement should reflect the rates outlined by the 2019 NATSEM report on the cost of disability. NATSEM showed that a single person with a disability receiving the Disability Support Pension needs an extra $50 per week to achieve the same standard of living as someone without a disability receiving a pension.
This supplement should be available to people with disabilities, as well as people with an illness that prevents them from undertaking full-time paid work.
The supplement is designed to complement the NDIS as opposed to replacing services provided by the NDIS. It extends financial support to people who are ineligible for the NDIS and, for those who are, it provides additional support to purchase goods and services that are not covered by the NDIS.
Single Parent Supplement
Out of all family types, single parent households are at the greatest risk of living in poverty, with 35% of single parents living below the poverty line. Almost 50% of children in single parent households live in poverty (44.5%).
To ensure the added costs of single parenthood are adequately recognised in our income support system, we propose a supplement of at least $200 per week for a single parent with two children to replace Family Tax Benefit Part B. This supplement should increase as children get older, recognising that the cost of children increases as they age, and be indexed to wages as well as prices.
Abolish mandatory cashless debit and income management
For 15 years, Australia has imposed income quarantining on people receiving income support living in selected communities. In that time, there has been no conclusive evidence produced that mandatory income quarantining (either income management or cashless debit) improves outcomes for individuals or their communities. There is no evidence that it addresses poverty, addiction, or other issues that communities may face. Instead, this policy discriminates against First Nations people who are grossly overrepresented among those subjected to it.
Income quarantining is expensive and ineffective, and we strongly urge the next government to abandon this policy and redirect the savings into community-led programs that deliver positive outcomes.