The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) joins hundreds of organisations and thousands of individuals who are calling on the Federal Government to Raise the Rate of the JobSeeker payment for good.
The calls come as part of a National Day of Action today to demonstrate why we cannot turn back to the old Newstart rate of $40 per day and instead need a permanent and adequate increase to JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and other income support payments.
Across the country, people who have lost their jobs due to COVID and people who have experience of trying to get by on the old Newstart payment of $40 a day are contacting their local Federal Members of Parliament. A wide range of organisations, including business, union and community groups, are showing their support.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell, said: “Since the end of last year, the number of people on JobSeeker and Youth Allowance has more than doubled in the ACT. As we confront the health and economic crises, the reality is that more people than ever before will struggle to find paid work. Total job vacancies in the ACT declined by 46.2% in the three months to May 2020 to just 3,600 vacancies while the number of job seekers receiving payments rose to almost 15,000.”
Nationally, there is currently only one job vacancy available for every 13 people on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance.
Dr Campbell said: “With the introduction of the Coronavirus Supplement, we’ve heard how many people who used to be on the old, low rate of Newstart, have finally been able to access the essentials, like prescription glasses, pay electricity bills so they can turn their heating on, and buy warm clothes for their children to get through the Canberra winter.”
As Gary* told us as part of our report on food security in the ACT last year:
“I went onto Newstart after I graduated and I couldn’t get a job for quite a long time. My rent at that stage was $125 a week. Even with relatively low rent, it became obvious that on normal Newstart the ends weren’t going to meet together. At that stage, I was buying most of my own food… On normal Newstart, even with rent assistance… and with what should be some good spending habits, to feed oneself can be hard… Somewhere in the second week of my fortnight, I literally don’t have any money anymore, and I have to just go to free food services… And if any expenses come up, you just can’t pay them.”
Dr Campbell said: “We cannot turn back to $40 a day – the old, low Newstart rate. This is not enough to live on, let alone to cover the basics, such as housing, food, healthcare, bills, and transport.
“As we rebuild after the crisis, we cannot turn our back on those who are at risk of being left behind. We need to Raise the Rate for Good so that everyone has enough to cover the basics of life, like a roof over one’s head and food on the table,” Dr Campbell concluded.
*Not his real name.
The ACT Council of Social Service Inc. (ACTCOSS) advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.