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Welfare payments 'have become a poverty trap': Anglicare Australia

People are forced to make terrible choices between paying for rent, food, health or bills, Christian agencies say

Anglicare Australia's Executive Director Kasy Chambers said the Social Policy Research Centre report had provided more proof that Newstart and the Youth Allowance should be increased "as a matter of urgency" to ensure they were a living wage for the people who relied on them.

September 26 2017Anglicare Australia has joined other leading welfare agencies in pressing the Federal Government to acknowledge that the Newstart and Youth Allowance payments are not enough to cover the cost of living and are leading recipients into poverty.

Anglicare Australia, Mission Australia, the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council, and Anglicare Australia made the appeal to Canberra after new figures released by the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW showed that people on Newstart and the Youth Allowance would need up to $96 a week more to cover their regular expenses.

The Executive Director of Anglicare Australia, Ms Kasy Chambers, said: “This report tells us what we’ve already known for years – that Government payments are so low that they’ve become a poverty trap.

“Anglicare Australia’s own annual Rental Affordability Snapshot, along with our national food insecurity research, shows that people who rely on these payments cannot afford to pay for their most basic needs. Instead, they are forced to make unfair trade-offs: rent or food; rent or medical needs; bills or transport for work.

“We need to increase Newstart and Youth Allowance as a matter of urgency, and ensure that they are a living wage for the people who rely on them.”

Mission Australia’s CEO, Ms Catherine Yeomans, said the figures showed that Newstart and Youth Allowance were falling well short of the income needed to cover bills, food and rent.

“This is leaving families and individuals with terrible choices…,” she said.

“Without an adequate income, people are forced into unsuitable, and often unsafe accommodation because it is all they can afford. In the worst cases, they can lose their ongoing accommodation and be pushed into homelessness.

“For so many people we support through our services, the crippling cost of rent is a significant proportion of their income. Small changes in their financial circumstance, such as an unexpected health cost or an increase in their electricity bill, can really affect their ability to pay rent, throwing them into precarious and stressful situations.”

The CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council, Dr John Falzon, said the Government should focus on income adequacy instead of income management.

“You don’t build people up by putting them down,” Dr Falzon said. “You don’t help people into jobs by forcing them to live below the poverty line. You don’t address the structural causes of unemployment by punishing people. You don’t create an innovative economy or a fair society by allowing charity to become the default mode of delivering income support for people who bear the brunt of inequality.”