The passing of an income-support bonus through the House of Representatives this week is an example of Australia’s welfare system providing a band-aid treatment rather than a developed solution for the most vulnerable in our society.
AnglicareSA CEO Peter Sandeman says that the bonus payments of $210 for singles and $350 for couples, paid in two instalments scheduled for March and September, will do little to support the capacity of fixed income recipients to gain employment.
“While AnglicareSA appreciates the “good will” this payment is offering, we must not lose sight of the fact that it equates to 50 cents per day or $3.50 per week. It is a long way short of the $50 a week increase to Newstart our sector continues to lobby for,” Rev’d Sandeman says.
“We are a voice for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our community and we are saying these bonus payments simply do not go far enough – it is just a band-aid.
“While these small extra payments will provide some initial support for hundreds of thousands of people living below the poverty line, allowance payments must be lifted in this year’s Budget because it is clear that no one in Australia can live on $246 a week.”
Rev’d Sandeman says for anyone to achieve sustained employment they need access to the basics in life – housing, utilities, reliable and timely transport (public or private), child care, clothing and personal grooming.
“Before a person can even enter the workforce they need to be in a financial state that allows them the opportunity to pay for transport to attend interviews, present well and access resources to find employment – internet/computer/postage etc.
“There is no doubt that the current Newstart allowance of $35 a day is not enough for survival, let alone providing someone with the opportunity to build their capacity to find work.
“I am always concerned when bonus payments are made. While they may provide the opportunity for people to pay larger bills, as with all of us, the reality is that the money is often used to buy basic items.”
Rev’d Sandeman says the nature of welfare has changed. Jobseekers now often spend longer periods of time out of the workforce.
“Benefit payments were introduced to support people with the costs associated with finding work during “short” periods of unemployment,” he says.
“Over the past decade we have seen a significant increase in the number of people who are experiencing long-term unemployment and, frighteningly, we are seeing the introduction of multi-generational unemployment.
“Australia needs to change the way in which we address welfare and unemployment.
“Even in times of low unemployment, there will be a number of people who connect with Anglicare services who will potentially remain unemployed. These people grapple with a lack of skills, difficulties developing a work ethic and gaps in their employment history and they need realistic financial support – not living below the poverty line.”