The Australian Council of Social Service is calling for a real increase to income support payments, because routine indexation in line CPI does little to address the inadequacy of income support.
On 20 March, income support payments including JobSeeker will be increased by 3.7 per cent in line with CPI changes from June to December last year, as part of routine indexation of payments.
This increase will not deal with the fact that JobSeeker is not enough to cover food, utilities and medicines, not to mention keep up with the cost of essentials, with rent up by more than 10 per cent, food by 9.2 per cent and electricity up 8.6 per cent in the 12 months to December.
The JobSeeker indexation increase is just $1.77 a day, taking the payment for a single person from $48 to $50 day.
The payment will still be 57 per cent below the minimum wage, 34 per cent below the pension and well below the poverty line.
People receiving Youth Allowance – currently $40 a day – will not receive any increase, as Youth Allowance and other student payments are only indexed once a year.
ACOSS Acting CEO Edwina MacDonald said the government must deliver a real increase to JobSeeker and related payments to at least bring them in line with the pension, currently $73 a day.
“People on JobSeeker and related payments cannot afford to eat enough, cannot get essential medication or healthcare, and often go into debt to pay their energy bills,” she said.
“The inadequacy of these payments directly corrodes people’s capacity and confidence. Being forced to go without the basics like enough food impairs people’s ability to look for paid work and engage in their community.
“While every little bit extra helps, this indexation will not ensure that people can cover basic costs because their incomes were grossly inadequate before prices rose.
“The only way to address this problem is to deliver a real increase to JobSeeker and related payments so that they are lifted to at least the same level as the pension.”
ACOSS research last year found that 96% of people receiving these payments who were in private rental were paying more than 30% of their income in rent. Almost all respondents (96%) said that their inadequate income negatively affected their physical health and wellbeing.