The recent ACOSS report into poverty launched on 12 October 2014 for Anti-Poverty Week found that 61 per cent of people most likely to be living in poverty are people who are unemployed. At the heart of the problem is the very low payment rate of social security payments for over 800,000 job seekers.
An analysis by the National Welfare Rights Network shows that the Newstart Allowance continues to to fall in value when compared with both the minimum wage and the pension.
Addressing the $170 a week gap between pensions and allowances must be a high priority for the Government’s Welfare Review Taskforce (the McClure Review).
Employment goals for people with disabilities will not be achieved until the Government addresses structural problems with the payments system by increasing the Newstart Allowance. Currently, people on the Disability Support Pension who are in paid employment, or gain employment, face the ongoing legitimate concern that if the job finishes, they will be shunted onto the Newstart Allowance. The Allowance is now $8,800 a year less than the pension.
Since 2011, the number of people out of work for more than 24 months has surged by a massive 234 per cent. Many of these 355,000 job seekers have been living lives of unseen desperation on manifestly inadequate social security support.
The people that our services talk to are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. One reason for this is the changing profile of job seekers in this country. One-in-four of the total number of unemployed people on the Newstart Allowance has a significant disability, according to new administrative data from the Department of Human Services.
The extra costs of managing their disability is a constant challenge on an inadequate single Newstart of less than $260 a week. Some are going without food or essential medications to cover accommodation. A single adult on Newstart, with Rent Assistance, is living on $100 a week less than the accepted poverty line. This is unacceptable in a prosperous country like Australia.
People with a disability are more likely to be living in poverty when compared to the total population. A disturbing 27.4 per cent of people with a disability were living in poverty, compared to 12.8% of the total population.
It is essential that Newstart is increased to a rate that allows people to meet the essential costs of living.
In light of these disturbing findings it is appropriate that the Federal Parliament move to re-set the budget priorities.