On Wednesday 20 November, we presented to the Senate Committee hearing about the inadequacy of current welfare supports for individuals and families, particularly for struggling rural and regional communities.
A single person on Newstart receives less than a quarter of the minimum wage, and a family relying on Centrelink payments lives well below the Australian poverty line.
The continuous rise in the cost of living without an increase in welfare benefits is causing families and individuals to choose between paying for rent, food, transport, utilities, healthcare, school fees and other necessities for living a decent life.
Uniting Vic.Tas CEO, the Hon. Bronwyn Pike, told Senators how living on around $40 per day has long-term, far-reaching impacts on people’s physical health, mental health, social inclusion, economic participation, family functioning and emotional wellbeing.
“Every day we see evidence that Newstart, Youth Allowance and related payments are inadequate to cover basic living costs,” Ms Pike said.
“We witness this in our financial counselling, emergency relief, housing and homelessness, energy concessions, employment, disability, and mental health services through to supports for families, young people leaving out of home care and older people.
“Our communities show remarkable resilience and resourcefulness in the face of such challenges. But rural and regional communities, in particular, are disproportionately impacted by higher unemployment and a growing need for welfare, crisis and charity services.
“Our welfare system should reflect the kind of Australia we want to be: A country that treats everyone with dignity and respect and motivates its people to participate in social, cultural and economic life.
“You can’t expect people to contribute to their community when they are worried about where their next meal is coming from or where they will sleep at night,” Ms Pike added.
As a member of the national Raise the Rate campaign, Uniting Vic.Tas is calling for the Australian Government, at a bare minimum, to:
- Increase the single rates of Newstart, Youth Allowance and related payments by $75 per week to reduce poverty and inequality in Australia;
- Index Newstart, Youth Allowance and related payments to wages as well as CPI to ensure they maintain pace with community living standards;
- Increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance by at least 30% or $20 per week for a single person on Newstart; and
- Establish a Single Parent Supplement to help single parents with the cost of raising children.
“The reforms we recommend would help reduce homelessness, destitution, child poverty and the need for emergency relief in our communities. We know that increasing income support payments would also provide a much-needed boost to our economy, because every cent would be spent in local communities,” Ms Pike added.
“Our community, social services, business groups, leading charities and economists are all calling for these changes.
“The evidence is wide-ranging and well-documented. It’s now time for the Australian Government to increase income support payments for the benefit of the entire Australia community.”