Government policy pushing lower income people ‘to the brink’ during pandemic



The results of a new survey by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) found that 85% of income assistance recipients cannot access payment in the event of a COVID disaster.

In response, ACOSS demanded that COVID disaster payments be extended to all people without paid work to at least $ 600 per week. They also want Parliament to pass legislation that will raise working-age income support payments just above the poverty line (equivalent to the pension rate) to $ 475 per week.

The “Living in confinement” survey, who surveyed 216 people, found that people who received government assistance for unemployment and related payments were worse off in 2021 compared to last year. In total, 80% of those polled admitted that they were “seriously struggling to survive†and 40% felt less secure compared to 2020.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said it was “unacceptable” to leave behind those in the company who needed support the most. She added that an urgent extension of disaster payments should be made available to everyone with company security or other income, including those with temporary Australian visas.

“The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that there were four times as many deaths from COVID-19 in the lowest socio-economic group (which includes most people receiving benefits from social security) relative to the highest socioeconomic group, â€Goldie said.

“Even the OECD recommends that Australia raise our appallingly low level of unemployment benefits – to $ 44 a day, that’s the lowest rate of any peer country. People on the youth allowance and Austudy receive an even lower rate of $ 36 per day. “

“As soon as Parliament is recalled, it will have to pass legislation to raise social security payments above the poverty line, including JobSeeker, Commonwealth rent assistance and family payments,” she said. declared.

In total, 96% of ACOSS survey respondents said they “were struggling with the cost of living and 41% said they were at risk of homelessness due to high housing costs.

Goldie noted that housing costs were the biggest stressor experienced by low-income people. A single person without children would only be eligible to receive only $ 70 a week in Commonwealth rent assistance, she said, arguing for an increase of at least 50% to that payment.

Sydney residents cannot find rental accommodation for less than $ 340 per week (and up to $ 540 per week in the city), â€said Dr Goldie.

ACOSS Social Security Program Director Charmaine Crowe said cost of living issues were preventing some of the community’s most vulnerable people from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

When people cannot afford basic costs like food, rent, electricity, medicine, and public transport, they have a harder time traveling to get the vaccine and are more at risk of COVID-19, â€Crowe said.

ACOSS also recommended that the government index all income support twice a year, based on changes in wages and prices. The council also called for more investment in social housing to close a critical supply gap, and stressed the need for the government to provide single parents and people with disabilities or sick additional payments for the cost of the extra life they face.


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