Budget is Time to give Australians Looking for Work a Hand

ACOSS is urging the Federal Government to tackle growing disadvantage among unemployed Australians by setting up a program of paid work experience and by lifting unemployment payments for singles by $45 per week.

Releasing its recommendations for the Federal Budget 2010-11 today, ACOSS has outlined costed measures to assist job seekers into work and limit their financial hardship. Under the ACOSS proposal, Newstart Allowance payments for single people would rise by $45 to $276 per week.

“The economy may be in recovery, but unemployed Australians still need help to move into work and an adequate income while they look for work. The payment is currently a paltry $33 per day,” said Clare Martin, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service.

“The gap between unemployment payments and pensions now stands at a staggering $119 per week. This gap has doubled since last year. Unemployed people missed out on a payment increase in the Budget last year and also missed out on the stimulus bonus payments.

“It’s time in this year’s Budget to give jobless Australians a hand.”

The weekly single pension rate is $350.55 and weekly single unemployment rate is $231.40.

“An extra $45 would help to close this gap and assist people without work to pay for the rising costs of groceries, rent and power. These essential items cost the same whether you are on a pension or on Newstart.

“Closing this gap would also limit the penalty imposed on people on disability support pensions when they seek work and are forced onto the lower payment.”

Although the official employment rate is increasing, the numbers of people accessing Newstart and Youth Allowance payments has increased by 24.5% from January 2009 to January 2010. There are now 687,236 people on these payments, with numbers of long-term jobseekers growing by 10.3%.

A paid work experience program would significantly improve job prospects as the economy recovers. Designed to transition participants into mainstream employment, this program would improve confidence on the job skills and networks that will assist with job search.

Other ACOSS proposals include:

Housing affordability package – To meet the drastic need of an undersupply of 251,000 low cost homes, an Affordable Housing Growth Fund should be established, with a down-payment of $750 million in the first year with sustained increased long-term funding. To help with the high costs of private rent, a 30% increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance would see approx $15 per week go to low income households on the highest rate.

Universal Dental care – 2.3 million Australians report that they delay or avoid dental treatment because of its cost. Universal access to oral health care is vital so all Australians can access dental care when they need it.

Read ACOSS’ Budget Priority Statement 2010-11 here.

Media Contact: Clare Cameron, ACOSS – 0419 626 155