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National disgrace: $50 increase to Jobseeker insufficient to meet the needs of our children

The Morrison Government has today announced an increase to working-age social security payments, including Jobseeker Payment, Youth Allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY and Parenting Payment, of $50 per fortnight. This will lift the Jobseeker Payment to a mere 41.2 per cent of the national minimum wage. It represents a shameful abandonment of Australians most in need.

As the peak body for child and family services in Victoria, the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare is devastated by this paltry increase and deeply concerned that hundreds of thousands of families and their children will continue to live in poverty.

While we recognise that even a small increase in income will be beneficial for people receiving these payments, the substantial assistance provided by the Coronavirus Supplement delivered vast improvements to wellbeing that will now be reversed as people are returned to bare subsistence.

This decision by the government affects 1.95 million people who receive working-age payments, many of whom will be locked in poverty by the decision to deliver a token increase rather than one that would bring payments above the poverty line as the Centre and experts on the impact of poverty have long called for.

Last week, the Centre and 31 of our members wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister calling on his government to deliver a permanent, adequate increase to social security payments sufficient to lift incomes above the poverty line. This call has been ignored.

The government also took the opportunity today to re-introduce pre-pandemic level mutual obligations and introduce even harsher measures, including a hotline for employers to report people who do not accept job offers, and a new ‘intensive training stage’ that people must engage in once they have been on payments for six months.

Senator Ruston’s claims that this increase will mean a sustainable system for the future should our children fall on tough times shows how out of touch she is with the lived experience of children who are currently growing up in poverty.

Working-age social security payments do not meet the basic living needs of Australians, many of whom are unable to afford regular meals and the costs of education for their children. Punishing people for being unable to work or for struggling to find work is not only ineffective and cruel, but also counter-productive in its debilitating impact on self-worth, dignity and motivation.

The Centre condemns the increase mutual obligations, and will continue to advocate for what is just and fair – a permanent, adequate increase to social security payments sufficient to lift incomes above the poverty line. Our children and families deserve the best lives our society can give them, not the callous disregard for social and economic wellbeing that the federal government has demonstrated today.

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