With Sydney lockdown to be extended, Federal Government must urgently heed NSW Treasurer’s call to help those with the least

28 July 2021

With the Greater Sydney lockdown expected to be extended for another month today, ACOSS is again urging the Federal Government to extend the lockdown Disaster Payments to lift incomes for all without paid work to at least $600 per week, including those with the least – people trying to get by on social security payments or with no social security at all.

As the NSW Treasurer has written in The Daily Telegraph today: “First, the Disaster Payment excludes people who are receiving other forms of Commonwealth assistance. It shouldn’t.”

Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:

“About 400,000 people in the Greater Sydney lockdown, as well as their children and others in their care, are trying to get by on social security payments deep below the poverty line and are currently excluded from the Federal Government’s disaster payments.
“Many have lost paid work and are now facing destitution as they try to survive on paltry social security payments. All of them are prevented from finding paid work due to the lockdown.

“These are students, older women, single parents who have been hit hard by this pandemic again and again – it is an issue of basic humanity.

“It is also a serious public health emergency – you can’t stay at home if you can’t afford to keep a roof over your head.”

With increased inflation figures expected to be released today, Dr Goldie continued:

“Rents have sky-rocketed while costs of basic goods people need to get by day-to-day and to search for paid work, such as groceries, clothing and petrol, have also increased. People are being left with just a couple of dollars a week after paying their rent – it’s clear that it’s impossible to cover the basics on the JobSeeker rate of just $44 a day or Youth Allowance, now just $37 per day.
“With people getting the Disaster Payment of $600 struggling to make ends meet, how can people on social security and locked out of any paid work survive on about half that amount? They can’t,” Dr Goldie said.

New South Wales Council of Social Service CEO Joanna Quilty said:

“The Federal Government is actively preventing the most vulnerable from accessing the supports they need to keep their families safe, food on the table and a roof over their heads.

“Families throughout Greater Sydney are under immense pressure, the lockdown imposes additional hardship and those doing it toughest need adequate financial support.”

To close the glaring gap in support for people on the lowest incomes, ACOSS urges the Federal Government to do the following:

1. Immediately extend Covid Disaster Payments to lift incomes for all people without paid work to at least $600 per week, especially those renting, This needs to include those in receipt of social security and those without any other income source at all.
2. Reintroduce a targeted JobKeeper Payment for industries particularly affected by lockdowns.
3. As soon as Parliament resumes in August, pass legislation lifting working age income support payments (JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, parenting payments and related income support) to above the poverty line (at least $475pw for the single rate).
4. All income support payments must be indexed twice per year in line with wage growth as well as prices.
5. Extend income support to all affected by inadequate paid work, including people on temporary visas.
6. Increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 50% to a maximum rate of $135 per week.
7. Provide supplementary payments for people with disability or illness, and single parents, recognising the additional costs they face.

Recent reports from ACOSS:

Financial distress in lockdown: The impact of lockdowns on demand for food relief and financial assistance
The report shows that since the start of the Sydney lockdown to July 14, online searches for emergency relief services rose by more than 800% through Ask Izzy, a mobile website operated by Infoxchange, that connects people in need with housing, a meal, money help, health and wellbeing services, family violence support and counselling. Searches for financial assistance have doubled in Sydney since lockdown began. It also shows that Foodbank NSW & ACT is now processing as many hampers a day as they did in a week before lockdowns began.

Locked out in lockdown: A report about people with the least trying to survive in lockdown
Of the 88 people living in lockdown in Greater Sydney who have shared their experience of trying to get by on social security payments without disaster payment support with ACOSS, 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. The report includes direct quotes.