Strengthening the Safety Net Bill a step in the right direction

ACOSS commends the passage of the Strengthening the Safety Net Bill, and thanks all those across politics, community, business, union and academia who have worked so hard to deliver small improvements to the social security system after years of decline and neglect.

However, further increases to Jobseeker and related working age payments are urgently needed to secure an adequate safety net for people hit by unemployment.

The bill legislates increases to JobSeeker and related payments, Commonwealth Rent Assistance, and changes to the eligibility requirements for the Parenting Payment Single.

ACOSS says the new rate of JobSeeker will still be a poverty payment of $54 a day, up from $50, once the increases and routine indexation come into effect in September.

This is well below the $76 a day rate that ACOSS has called for. It is also below the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee’s finding that an adequate unemployment rate would mean raising JobSeeker to 90% of the Age Pension.

“While any increase is a step in the right direction, this marginally increased JobSeeker rate is still a poverty payment and will not stop people going without essentials like food and heating,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

“We remain committed to working with members of parliament to secure further increases to income support.”

ACOSS acknowledges and warmly welcomes the changes to eligibility criteria for the Parenting Payment Single.

“Lifting the age of the youngest child to 14 will be life-changing for the 57,000 single parents who will benefit, most of whom are women currently receiving the inadequate JobSeeker Payment because their children have had their 8th birthday.

“Single parents should never have lost access to Parenting Payment, which resulted in them caring for school-aged children on an income well below the poverty line.

“We congratulate single parents, Single Mother Families Australia and the many others who have long fought for fairer income support.”