Services warn JobSeeker cut could increase homelessness

Australians on the JobSeeker payment face a dire situation if the level drops in September. Picture: Shutterstock
Australians on the JobSeeker payment face a dire situation if the level drops in September. Picture: Shutterstock

Australians on the JobSeeker payment are heading for a "desperate" situation if the payment rate drops significantly in September, the government has been warned.

Australians receiving the welfare payment are yet to find out what will happen at the end of September when the coronavirus supplement payment that effectively doubles the unemployment benefit is set to end.

On Monday Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said the government was looking at measures that would reflect the current market conditions and health conditions, to be announced next Thursday.

"Right now we're still in the middle of a pandemic," she said.

"Next week the Treasurer and the Prime Minister will be making an economic statement, and in that economic statement, it will plot the pathway forward for the next period, recognising that we still are in a very transitory state with the pandemic and that we will continue to have to monitor it and respond to the conditions as they present themselves."

Anglicare Australia, a charity that provides food and financial assistance services to those in poverty, has warned that if the payment returns to below the poverty line it will put more barriers between those out of work and getting a job, and have flow on effects for the wider economy.

The number of people receiving the unemployment payment in Australia has doubled since the coronavirus pandemic hit, and families who haven't experienced the previous lower level of the payment are likely to continue needing the payment past September. and have higher financial commitments due to their previous employment.

"I fear we're going to see quite an increase in homelessness, in people forgoing mortgage payments," Anglicare chief executive Kasy Chambers said.

"The banks have been clear they can't save everyone, and if people go back to the old rate of $550 a fortnight I can't imagine what that's going to look like for all those extra people who are on JobSeeker."

In a survey of Anglicare's clients before the pandemic hit, two in three of the people who used the charity were unemployed, and others were in precarious employment or even on the minimum wage but unable to get by. Once on the unemployment payment it was difficult to get back into work, she said.

There have been signals the government won't return all JobSeeker recipients to the former low rate, which at $40 a day had been criticised by the charities, politicians across the ideological spectrum and the business world.

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"We cant let people slip below the poverty line, we've been there, we know what that does to people and that's not good enough for those people [who were on the payment before the pandemic] and not good enough for the 800,000 who are newly on this payment," Ms Chambers said.

"It has to be kept above the poverty line, now the aged pension is roughly at the poverty line, which is slightly lower than JobSeeker is at the moment."

Ms Chambers said people who had been on the lower payment for a long time and then received the newer higher payment had been able to afford better meals, to take all their medications and make other decisions to try and get back into work.

This story 'Desperate situation': Services warn JobSeeker cut could increase homelessness first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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