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Young Aussies on welfare missing meals, sleeping in cars

Young Australians receiving Youth Allowance and Newstart have had to skip meals. Images: Getty

Young Australians receiving Newstart and Youth Allowance payments have revealed they are regularly skipping meals, sleeping in their cars and withdrawing from their education. 

The study found that more than 60 per cent of recipients have less than $14 a day after paying their rent. People receiving Youth Allowance payments made up 75.2 per cent of survey participants, while 19.4 per cent received Newstart and the remainder received Austudy or Disability Support Payment benefits.

And, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) National Union of Students and Young Campaign study found that one-in-two young welfare recipients have couch-surfed, while more than nine-in-10 have had to skip at least one meal every week, with one-third pulling out of their studies. 

Around one-in-five also had to skip meals every day. 

Source: YOUNG Campaign report

“Sometimes I can’t focus due to hunger, because travelling to class used money I needed for groceries,” one participant said. 

Another said they were on a waiting list to have four wisdom teeth removed. Despite the “immense amount of pain”, an inability to pay for the $4,000 surgery means that participant is on an 18-month wait list. 

Newstart, Youth Allowance payments ‘simply not good enough’

“Young people are living in unsafe and insecure homes, they’re skipping meals every day, and it’s affecting their studies. It’s simply not good enough,” the students’ union’s Adriana Malavisi said.

“Students should not be forced to live in poverty while studying. We’ve heard stories of students not being able to afford transport to university or study materials, and struggling to complete their course. 

“We’ve seen that students have been forced to withdraw from their studies due to poverty. It’s time for the government to support young people.”

Malavisi said young people have also complained of being unable to afford medicine or treatment for illness and disabilities. 

YOUNG Campaigns’ Cat Nadel added that antidepressants and birth control are also frequent casualties of low payments, with young Aussies forced to quit taking them. 

“It is physically impossible to live a normal, healthy life on these low payments. That’s why so many young people are standing up and sharing our stories,” Nadel said. 

“We’re calling on the government to #RaiseTheRate.”

The three groups are calling on the government to increase these payments by $75 a week. As it stands, people on Newstart get around $40 a day, while young people receiving Youth Allowance receive around $32.50 - around a third of the minimum wage. 

The report coincides with a Senate inquiry examining whether Newstart and other benefits targeting unemployed Australians are adequate. 

Reserve Bank of Australia deputy governor Guy Debelle has also thrown his weight behind the push, saying boosting Newstart would also boost the economy. 

“There are a number of things which are out there which would provide stimulus to the economy – this [Newstart] is one of them.”

Newstart recipients forced into homelessness

Another study from the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union (AUWU) released this week found that 75 per cent of Newstart recipients have had their payments cut after failing to meet job plan requirements. 

The AUWU said the “mutual obligations” are punitive and require serious reform. 

“The results showed there was very little choice over activities and that job seekers were not listened to about what they wanted to do,” the AUWU. 

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