Australia’s leading welfare advocates are gearing up for the ‘fight of their lives’ in 2014, as the Government gets ready to consider its response to the Commission of Audit, amid talk of a further tightening of eligibility for disability pensions and additional co-payments for the sick to visit a doctor.
From January 1 2014, a number of social security payments will rise in line with increases in the Consumer Price Index.
However, it will not be a Happy New Year for everyone according to Maree O’Halloran, President, National Welfare Rights Network and Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service.
“Today marks 12 months since over 63,000 single parents were moved off the Parenting Payment Single and pushed onto the lower Newstart Allowance resulting in a 20 percent decline in the numbers of single parents receiving the higher Parenting Payment.”
“Raising children alone is a very tough job and there is no evidence that reducing a person’s income support will assist them into employment. Single parents who were already working have been made financially worse off under the lower earnings thresholds,” said Maree O’Halloran.
“Single parents on the maximum rate of payment are now over $80 per week worse off, and are struggling to get by on just $275 per week. With a further half a billion dollars due to be slashed over the next three years, this places enormous strain on some of Australia’s poorest households,” Dr Goldie added.
From today, young people over 18, mature age students and Disability Support Pension recipients under 21 will see their fortnightly payment modestly increase to between $272 and $414 a fortnight. This leaves young people who live away from home with just $30 per day.
“Young people continue to face ongoing financial difficulty and experience high levels of financial stress as they are poorly supported while searching for work or undertaking study,” Dr Goldie said.
“The maximum age for Youth Allowance job seekers increased from 20 to 21 in July 2012. This, and a deteriorating market for young people, has led to a massive 35.8% increase in young unemployed people looking for work since June 2012, rising from 83,802 to 113,804 in June 2013.” Dr Goldie said.
Today also marks the start of the Clean Energy Supplement for all youth-related income support payments. Depending on their circumstances, the supplement will range from between $3.90 and $11.70 per fortnight.
“Young people will need to make these small increases last, because their income support payments are only indexed yearly for cost of living increases, unlike pensions, which are indexed every six months, and to a higher, improved formula,” Ms O’Halloran explained.
Other changes beginning today will see single parents on Newstart eligible for the Pensioner Education Supplement of up to $31 a week to assist with the costs of study.
For interviews and more information:
Australian Council of Social Service, 0419 626 155
National Welfare Rights Network, 0425 296 882