The Greens have repeated their calls for the Government to delay changes to Newstart and the Sickness Allowance in the face of the COVID-19 crisis saying that Centrelink lacks the resources to adequately deal with the changes and the increased workload resulting from the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.
From tomorrow, Newstart Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Wife Pension, Bereavement Allowance and Widow B Pension are set to cease and most recipients of these payments will transition to Jobseeker Payment, Age Pension or Carer Payment.
“Now is not the time for the Centrelink system to be under additional strain. People are already feeling scared and confused and changing Newstart to Jobseeker Payment and not having a separate Sickness Allowance is only going to make things worse,”Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Family and Community Services said.
“The Government says that jobseeker applications will be processed in 5 days which is absolutely farcical. Currently the median time for assessing Newstart is 15 days. The median processing time for Sickness Allowance is 35 days.
“With so many people set to be losing work as a result of the coronavirus, I cannot believe they will have the capacity to process the additional applications within 5 days and manage the separate applications for those with Covid19 requiring an exemption from mutual obligations.
“How are sick people meant to know that they have to apply for the jobseeker payment and then get an exemption?
“I have received advice that the Department hasn’t even worked out the process for people with coronavirus in terms of whether these applications for jobseeker will be processed separately to regular jobseeker applications.
“Centrelink is a mess and so is this Government’s approach to dealing with at risk and vulnerable people.