Cuts to the JobSeeker payment will send thousands of Australians into homelessness and hamstring the social services system, a new survey has warned.
The JobSeeker payment was doubled from $550 to $1,100 a fortnight in March, but is scheduled to fall to $815 on 25 September, with the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) warning the cuts will have alarming consequences.
The survey of community sector staff and leaders found that the extra payments meant that many Australians were able to afford new winter clothes, replace broken whitegoods and repair cars. The increased payments also helped recipients afford rent and healthy food.
“Community service workers are reporting that people who have had access to the increased JobSeeker payment have been able to cover the basics, for many, for the first time in a long time,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
“We’ve heard from many people who used to be on the old, low rate of Newstart, that the increase to JobSeeker and other income support has meant they’ve finally been able to access the essentials, like prescription glasses, a fridge and warm jumpers for their children to get through winter.”
She said that as the economic crisis continues, more Australians than ever will struggle to find work with one vacancy for every 12 JobSeeker or Youth Allowance recipients.
With 2.3 million Australians receiving the Coronavirus Supplement – which effectively doubled the JobSeeker payment – Goldie said the government needs to act fast to increase the based JobSeeker payment to help Australians in a “really desperate situation”.
One survey respondent in the child, youth and family service sector said continued government support is essential for their clients.
“Without it, the burden that will fall onto the community sector will be too great and the system will collapse,” the respondent said.
Another respondent from the mental health field said they will face similar difficulties if support were to end.
Others still said JobSeeker as it stands doesn’t go far enough, with many vulnerable community members including temporary visa holders, asylum seekers and refugees unable to access it.
“Asylum seekers are unable to access the Australian social safety net or JobKeeper. As a group they are disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and have been experiencing homelessness and mass unemployment,” one respondent said.
The Government has not yet detailed where the JobSeeker rate will land following the coronavirus pandemic but has indicated that it won’t revert to the pre-Covid level.
More than 1 million Australians have become unemployed since the coronavirus pandemic, with Treasury analysis released earlier this week finding state border closures and the Victorian outbreak pose further risks to the economic recovery.
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