Voices from Lockdown: New Report reveals the gruelling reality for people with least locked out from Federal Government disaster payments

23 July 2021

People in lockdown struggling to get by below the poverty line have shared the gruelling experience in a report by the Australian Council of Social Service, released today.
People in lockdown on the lowest incomes, those on social security payments below the poverty line, are being excluded from the Federal Government’s COVID Disaster Payments, although they have lost part-time paid work or are prevented from getting work.
Last week, ACOSS invited people in this situation to share their experience with us.
Of the 88 people living in lockdown in Greater Sydney who have shared their experience, 100% said they are struggling with the cost of living.
More than half had lost paid work because of the lockdown, and about half said they are at risk of losing their homes.
Respondents said:
“Every fortnight I have to decide whether to use the $40 I have left after rent and bills to buy my prescription medication or food. My landlord hasn’t raised my rent since the start of the pandemic, but that’s not fair on him and his family. Even with that kindness, I still lose 85% of my jobseeker allowance in rent. How is that sustainable?!” Lauren
“After $280 rent I have about $40 a week to survive. This barely covers the cost of groceries. On top of that I have medical bills, phone bills, utility bills, car payments and so on. I also resume uni classes soon and will need textbooks, stationary supplies etc., and the costs of transport/parking. This is simply impossible on Youth Allowance alone.” Jade (lost hospitality work because of the lockdown)
“Rent will be 2 weeks in arrears end of this week.” David
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:
“This is a public health issue – people can’t stay home in lockdown if they lose their home because they cannot afford to keep it.
“The Government has set up a two-tier response, with people who lost more than 20 hours of paid work per week eligible for $600pw and those who lost less than that or lost their job before the lockdown forced to try to get by below the poverty line.
“We need to immediately extend Disaster Payments to lift all incomes up to $600 per week, especially for those renting. When Federal Parliament returns, we need to fix social security arrangements for lockdowns to deliver an income floor for all. This would ensure everyone can cover the basics, including a roof overhead, to keep everyone safe. This means lifting social security payments above the poverty line: at least $475 per week (single rate), increasing Rent Assistance by 50%, and additional supplements for people with disability or chronic illness and single parents. Everyone needs to have at least enough when they lose their job, anytime, and anywhere.”

Read the report.