The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today welcomed the ACT Liberals’ election commitment to establish a commission to examine poverty in the ACT.
Dr Emma Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO, said: “While we await to hear more details of the commission, we welcome this announcement which responds to calls in ACTCOSS’s election platform.
“The commission must conduct a full analysis to understand Canberra’s demographic changes, increasing complexity of needs and the changed Canberra geography that has led to gaps in service provision for many vulnerable people.
“High averages in the ACT mask the persistent poverty experienced by many Canberrans.
“We know that the main drivers of poverty are housing costs and incomes. The ACT has some of the highest housing costs in Australia.
“The Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot has consistently found that there are almost no private rentals available to people on low incomes, even after increases in Commonwealth income support following COVID-19.
“Figures from Homelessness Australia and Everybody’s Home have shown that the ACT has a shortfall of 3,000 social housing dwellings in the ACT, while almost 1,600 Canberrans are homeless.
“These are the important issues that will be debated at the ACTCOSS 2020 ACT Leaders Forum taking place this Wednesday at 1pm, broadcast live and open to public viewing,” Dr Campbell continued.
Dr Campbell also highlighted the challenges with income in the ACT noting that before the COVID-19 pandemic, the JobSeeker rate without the Coronavirus Supplement was well below the poverty line.
Dr Campbell said: “Prior to the COVID-19 crisis it was estimated that almost 30,000 people in the ACT were living below the poverty line.
“Without a permanent increase in the rate of JobSeeker and related payments we could see the poverty rate in the ACT grow by around 25%.
“We therefore welcome today’s call by the Chief Minister to #RaiseTheRateForGood and urge the Opposition Leader, Alistair Coe MLA, to join our call for a permanent increase to JobSeeker and Youth Allowance.
“There are almost 23,000 people in the ACT facing the $300 per fortnight cut on September 25.
“As of July 2020 the number of people receiving income support while they look for work has doubled since March 2020.
“There is currently only one job vacancy for every four jobseekers in the ACT.
“A cut to the JobSeeker payment will leave many Canberrans unable to pay their rent, cover medical bills and buy fresh fruit and vegetables. It will also take millions of dollars out of the ACT economy at a time when we are facing an economic downturn.
“A permanent increase to JobSeeker is the right thing to do for our community and for our economy.”
ACTCOSS 2020 ACT Election Leaders Forum
When: Wednesday 2 September 2020, 1pm – 2pm