We all want the security of knowing that we’ll be supported during tough times. But right now, the rate of income support is so low that people are being forced to choose between paying their rent or buying enough food and medicine.
As a result, people experience chronic mental and physical health issues, they’re forced into homelessness and insecure housing, trapped with abusive partners, and locked out of paid work because they don’t have the money they need to retrain and re-enter the workforce.
It is long past time that we addressed this structural injustice. That’s why we, as health professionals, economists, and members of the community service sector, urge you to raise the rate of income support in the May 2023 federal budget.
Even before the cost-of-living crisis, income support payments weren’t nearly enough to cover basic expenses, but now people struggling to get by on $48 a day face increased deprivation.
In the last twelve months, rents have risen by about 18 per cent and food by about nine per cent. While everyone in our community is feeling the impact of these cost-of-living pressures, people on income support are going without food and other basics because they have nothing left to cut back on in their budget.
In September 2022, research from ACOSS found that six in ten people on income support were eating less or reporting difficulty getting medicine or care. The cost of essentials has drastically increased in the intervening months.
We cannot leave people with the least behind.
Right now, 80% of people receive JobSeeker Payment for 12 months or more. In December 2022, Anglicare found that there were 15 Jobseekers competing for each entry level role, and almost half of all vacancies require tertiary education or at least three years of experience. The longer people remain on income support, the harder it is to transition back into paid work.
But at $48 a day, the current rate of Jobseeker isn’t even enough to cover the essentials like weekly food and medicines let along get a hair cut, or buy a new shirt for a job interview. And with the Reserve Bank predicting that unemployment will rise by 150,000 next year, we must ensure income support payments cover basic costs.
We call on the Federal Government to substantially increase JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and related income support payments in the 2023 budget so as to not leave people in need behind.