Senate report adds voice to calls for urgent increase in Newstart Allowance

The Australian Council of Social Service said the report of the Senate inquiry into the adequacy of Newstart and other Allowances, released today, adds another voice to the chorus of calls for urgent action to increase these payments for single people. 

“A substantial increase in Newstart Allowance for singles should now be front and centre among priorities for the 2013 Budget,” said ACOSS CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“The Inquiry heard from dozens of community organisations, business organisations, unions and experts that single people and sole parents on Newstart and similar payments cannot meet the most basic living costs, or search for employment, on $35 a day.

“Many endorsed our call for a $50 per week increase in these payments for singles, and for them to be indexed to wage movements so that the $140 per week gap between allowances and pensions does not grow any wider. These increases were recommended by the Henry Report.

“We welcome the call from Labor and Greens Senators on the Committee for an urgent increase in Newstart and related payments for singles, and for those payments to be indexed to wages. We also welcome proposals from the Coalition Senators to increase the earnings threshold above which payments are withdrawn, though our clear priority is to increase the payments.

“However, we warn against any approach to payment reform that divides social security recipients into ‘deserving and undeserving poor’ by providing extra assistance exclusively to one group and excluding others. It’s the historical targeting to deservedness rather than need that has been the root cause of much of the unfairness and complexity in our social security system today

“This is the reason that allowances for unemployed people are $140 a week less than pensions, unemployed people and sole parents missed out on the increases to pensions in 2009, and 80,000 sole parents will have their payments cut by $60 a week or more from next January 1, 2013.

“When the Pension Review recommended an increase in the single pension in 2008 based on evidence that single pensioners were doing it tough, the Government moved swiftly to implement the proposal. Unemployed people and sole parents missed out. The Henry Report recommended in 2010 that single unemployed people should receive the same increase – now worth $50 per week. Two years have passed. The Senate report confirms that is a high time this was implemented.

“Just like a National Disability Insurance Scheme, introduced into parliament today, an increase in Allowance payments is an urgent national priority. We can do both. Both are vitally important if we want to improve the lives of disadvanatged people in our country in the interests of greater economic and social participation by all.

“ACOSS understands the current budgetary constraints, but budgeting is always about priorities. In the current economic climate, our priority should be on increasing the participation of everyone, not just in individuals’ interests but to benefit our society.

“We call on the Federal Government to heed this mounting evidence and move to do the right thing by this group of forgotten people in Australia who have been left to languish on such meagre and unliveable allowance payments,” Dr Goldie said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas – 0419 626 155

See Senate Inquiry Report 

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