Increase to social security payments grossly inadequate

The new rate of social security payments such as JobSeeker remain grossly inadequate and will leave people unable to meet basic living costs, ACOSS says.

From today, the JobSeeker rate will rise to $54 a day following the May budget increase as well as 2.2 per cent indexation. Youth Allowance will not be indexed until January, but the federal budget increase will lift it to $43 a day.

“The new $4 a day higher JobSeeker rate is still less than half the minimum wage. It is also well under the pension rate of $78 a day, which is also below the poverty line,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

“An incremental increase to the rate means nothing when it is so low to begin with. We’re punishing people for being unemployed and, perversely, making it as hard as possible for them to gain employment.

“It’s cruel to expect anyone to be able to meet the basic cost of living – buying food or medication, paying their bills or keeping up with rent to avoid becoming homeless.”

ACOSS is calling for the government to lift the JobSeeker rate to at least $78 a day in line with the pension.

A recent survey revealed three quarters of people relying on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance or the Age pension were eating less or rationing meals because of the low payment rate exacerbated by the rising cost of living.

It found the marginal rise in payments would do little to prevent widespread financial distress. Half of the 270 people surveyed said the increases would not help them at all.

“Income support payments are meant to be a social safety net. But at the moment, people are falling right through it because the rate of payments is far too low to allow people to cover the essentials of life,” Dr Goldie said.

“It is shameful that, in a country as wealthy as Australia, people are forced to eat less, or ration meals or medication.

“Raising the rate of JobSeeker and Youth Allowance to at least $78 a day would alleviate the worst of poverty among people on income support.”