Everyone has the right to a life free from poverty.
Today, the Treating Families Fairly alliance welcomes the Senate Community Affairs References Committee report on the ‘Adequacy of Newstart and related payments and alternative mechanisms to determine the level of income support payments in Australia’.
The report found that ‘the income support system is not meeting its objective of ensuring a minimum standard of living for working-age jobseekers, as too many live in poverty’. Evidence reviewed by the Committee showed that the low rate of payments, combined with poorly designed mutual obligations and employment services, create a barrier to employment rather than providing the support people need to find and access work.
We strongly welcome recommendations to set a national standard definition of poverty and to ensure that no person receiving social security payments lives in poverty.
The current rate of Newstart, now called the JobSeeker Payment, has not been increased in real terms in 26 years. As a result, more than half of all households receiving Newstart or Youth Allowance as their main source of income, including many with children, are living in poverty. Our safety net is failing to catch those most in need.
The far-reaching impacts of persistently inadequate payment rates are now exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis. Federal parliament recently recognised this and passed legislation to provide a coronavirus supplement of $550 per fortnight on top of existing payments including Jobseeker Payment, Parenting Payment and others from 27 April for a period of six months.
This is an effective doubling of payments that will have a profoundly positive impact on the lives of people who have experienced significant hardship for years. It forms a key part of the government’s early response to the coronavirus crisis.
However, economic modelling and reports from community service agencies indicate the level of people’s needs once the pandemic itself has eased are likely to be long-term and unprecedented. Consequently, we urge the government to permanently increase social security payments, without conditions, as a key feature of the recovery phase of this crisis.
Raising the rate of social security payments is the most effective and significant action that our government can take to reduce poverty in Australia and will form an integral part of our recovery process following the coronavirus crisis.
About Treating Families Fairly
Treating Families Fairly is an alliance of child and family service organisations, peak bodies and academics advocating for federal policies that uphold the rights of children, and speaking out against policies that cause harm, with a particular focus on social security and welfare conditionality.