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Centrelink increase will do little to ease Brock’s cost-of-living pressures

Millions of Aussies received an increase to their Centrelink payments this week. But is it enough?

Brock Alexander doesn't think the Centrelink increase is enough.
Brock Alexander currently receives Austudy and said the Centrelink increase doesn't go far enough. (Source: Supplied)

Brock Alexander says this week’s boost to his Centrelink payment is not “good enough” and won’t do much to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis.

Brock is one of a million Aussies who have received a $40-per-fortnight boost to their Centrelink payments. He is receiving Austudy while he completes a Bachelor of Pharmacy and was previously receiving JobSeeker.

The 25-year-old was previously receiving $683 a fortnight, however this has increased with the $40-per-fortnight increase. But, with the cost-of-living skyrocketing, Brock says this will provide little relief.

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“I think it’s a national shame. $40, while it’s better than zero, works out to be $2.85 a day and that can’t even buy you a bag of potatoes. I don’t think it’s good enough,” Brock told Yahoo Finance.

After being hit with rising rental costs, Brock moved back to his parents’ house on Brisbane’s Northside last year. He currently pays them $300 a fortnight from his Centrelink payments to help them with their mortgage repayments and household bills.

Inflation and the rising cost of groceries, fuel and household bills are Brock’s biggest stressors right now, with the family recently receiving an $800 electricity bill for the quarter. And, as a full-time student, Brock doesn’t have time to take on additional paid work.

“I think it’s very, very grim and I think it’s going to get worse. It’s just a really terrible time to be living at the moment with the cost of living.”

Because grocery prices have skyrocketed, Brock and his family started buying food from factory outlets that sell seconds from supermarkets, including those nearing or past their use-by dates.

“Sometimes, I’ve received items that you can’t physically eat, or you would get sick, so you just throw that stuff in the bin. Sometimes you get rotten vegetables, but then sometimes it’s good,” he said.

Even going to the dentist has become a luxury. Brock has been putting off getting his wisdom teeth removed because it will cost him up to $3,000.

Brock Alexander
Brock believes welfare payments need to increase to at least $78 a day so people can afford the basics. (Source: Supplied)

“[The pain] is sporadic and it comes and goes as they come through but you just have to put up with it,” Brock said.

“It’s unaffordable and the only risk you take is you might have crooked teeth, but you can always get that fixed up later in life. So, I’ve put off the dentist, it’s not a priority.”

While Brock is optimistic about his studies, he isn’t hopeful that cost-of-living pressures will ease up soon.

“I think it’s very, very grim and I think it’s going to get worse. It’s just a really terrible time to be living at the moment with the cost of living.”

How much did Centrelink payments rise?

People on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY and the Youth Disability Support Pension had their base rates increased by $40 a fortnight, as promised in the federal budget’s cost-of-living package. That amounts to $2.85 extra a day.

Other payments, including the Age Pension and JobSeeker, went up as part of the government’s regular indexation. This is done at regular intervals to ensure welfare payments “keep pace with the cost of living”.

Indexation happens twice a year - in March and September - for some payments, including JobSeeker and the Age Pension. Youth Allowance and Austudy payments are only indexed once a year - in January.

‘Grossly inadequate’

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) said the new rate of social security payments remained “grossly inadequate”, arguing the increases didn’t go far enough.

The welfare-advocacy organisation warned people wouldn’t be able to meet their basic living costs, including buying food or medication, paying their bills, or keeping up with rent.

“An incremental increase to the rate means nothing when it is so low to begin with. We’re punishing people for being unemployed and, perversely, making it as hard as possible for them to gain employment,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

ACOSS is calling for JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Austudy, Abstudy, Special Benefit and Parenting Payment to be lifted to at least $78 a day, in line with the Age Pension rate.

Brock said the government needs to increase the rate of welfare payments above the $40 increase to keep up with rising costs.

He believes payments should be increased to the Henderson Poverty Line, which is currently $601.50 per week for a single person in the workforce (including housing) and $487.73 for a single person not in the workforce (including housing).

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