Now over one million people in lockdown on lowest incomes excluded from COVID payment support

With lockdowns now in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, over one million people, including hundreds of thousands of children, are excluded from the Federal Government’s COVID Disaster Payments because they are on a social security payment, even though many have lost part-time paid work.

South Australian Council of Social Service CEO Ross Womersley said:

“When emergencies strike it is almost always those who are most vulnerable who are hit hardest. We need to make extra sure that we have smart policies and government responses in place that don’t leave those people hanging. With South Australia now joining Victoria and NSW in lockdown, the numbers of people affected are growing even higher.”

Victorian Council of Social Service CEO Emma King said:

“Denying people disaster support because they were already experiencing some kind of hardship or need defies logic. Support should be offered to all stood down workers and people locked out of paid work.”

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 prevent them sliding into poverty.”

Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:

“We’re talking about people on the lowest incomes in the country being excluded by the Federal Government from its financial support package in response to the lockdowns.

“These are students, older women, single parents who have been hit hard by this pandemic again and again – how will they keep a roof over their heads or food on the table?

“Many have lost part-time paid work that they relied on to cover the rent, with social security payments like JobSeeker and Youth Allowance being well below the poverty line.

“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.

“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.”