Uniting Vic.Tas has welcomed the increased support for families and vulnerable communities in this year’s Federal Budget but sees it as an opportunity lost to address systemic poverty.
Cost-of-living relief was at the forefront with energy rebates of up to $500 for eligible households, cheaper prescription medicines and greater incentives for GPs to provide more free appointments.
Greater childcare subsidies and extending the eligibility for single-parents to access the parenting payment until their youngest child turns 14 will provide much-needed relief for families, while $72 million to recruit and retain more early learning educators will strengthen the sector.
However, Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said the Budget laid a solid foundation by directing more support towards vulnerable communities, but it was disappointing more had not been done to address entrenched poverty.
“A $2.85 a day or $40 per fortnight increase to JobSeeker will not be enough to lift people out of poverty,” Ms Pike said.
“Our own research has shown when the rate of Jobseeker was doubled during the early days of the COVID pandemic, people were in a much better position to secure employment because they were relieved of the daily stresses of just having to survive,” Ms Pike said.
“As the Interim Economic Advisory Committee report found, the current rates of income supports such as JobSeeker and Youth Allowance are not only inadequate to cover the basics of living, but actually act as a barrier to gaining paid employment,” Ms Pike said.
“More people are having to make impossible choices between paying the rent, turning the lights on, or buying food or medication.
“We were hoping the Budget would finally raise income support payments to a rate which affords people a basic standard of living.
“Increasing the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 15 per cent or $31 a fortnight is welcome, but more still needs to be done to help people cope with housing stress.
“Family violence is an epidemic so the $589 million package for women’s safety with $38.2 million to extend UnitingCare Network’s Escaping Violence Payment to 2025 will help more people to find homes free of family violence.”