The St Vincent de Paul Society is amongst social service groups to condemn a $25-a-week rise in JobSeeker payments announced by the Federal Government today.
The Society’s national president, Claire Victory was “dumbfounded” by today’s small increase that amounts to just $3.57 per day – barely more than the old Newstart – when the coronavirus supplement expires at the end of March.
“Twenty-five dollars a week is an inadequate response to the poverty experienced by the people forced survive on unemployment benefits. It’s an afront to human dignity,” Ms Victory said.
“Twenty-five dollars a day would have been closer to the mark and would have brought income support in line with other pensions.”
In the face of criticism, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra the new payment was the biggest single increase in unemployment benefits in decades.
“It is true that it is the single-largest increase in the JobSeeker payment since the mid-’80s, year-on-year, that is true,” Mr Morrison said.
Currently, an eligible single person with no children is paid $715.70 a fortnight.
Of this, $565.70 consists of the JobSeeker payment and $150 consists of the coronavirus supplement.
The coronavirus supplement ends at the end of March.
The new JobSeeker rate will start from April 1 at $620.80 a fortnight, equating to $310.40 a week, or just over $44 a day.
Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) described the government’s JobSeeker decision as “heartless” and one that would trap hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders in poverty.
More than 670,000 people in Queensland rely on JobSeeker, JobKeeper or another income support payment that receives the COVID supplement.
“One in five working-age Queenslanders are currently depending on JobSeeker or JobKeeper to get them through,” QCOSS CEO Aimee McVeigh said.
Ms Victory said a Social Security Expert Group was needed to advise on payment levels that keep people out of poverty.
“Such a move would take the politics out of the decision-making process and would come closer to delivering in line with expectations for the common good of our community,” she said.
“Vinnies steps in to help people who are finding it hard to make ends meet from time-to-time.
“But to expect charities such as ours to meet people’s needs as a matter of course is very poor public policy and points to a government that is out of touch with the lived experience of many of its constituents.”
Mission Australia CEO James Toomey had an equally grim assessment of today’s JobSeeker announcement.
“Every day, we work alongside people who are homeless or on the brink of homelessness and many rely on income support just to survive.
“To increase the rate by only $50 a fortnight is an appalling decision. This rate is far too low, and we will see the continuing impacts of this on rates of disadvantage, poverty and homelessness in Australia.”