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New Payments Integrity Bill ‘designed to make things even tougher’

Struggling: “The bill will effectively force displaced mature-aged workers to deplete their asset base – a process in conflict with the current policy aim of ensuring financial independence into retirement.”

NEWSTART and other essential payments will be temporarily withheld from those with “modest savings” under the newly proposed Payments Integrity Bill put forward by the Federal Government.

The bill is a revival of failed 2017 legislation.

The aim of the legislation is to reduce the frequency of people seeking social services support if they have “modest savings” to draw from.

If people choose to access social support services with “modest savings” to draw from, they will face increased wait-time on any payments.

St Vincent de Paul Society national council chief executive officer Toby O’Connor said changes in the so named Payments Integrity Bill were likely to have most impact on older Australians, single parents and people with disability.

“The Government appears to be sending a message that discourages self-reliance,” he said.

“The bill will effectively force displaced mature-aged workers to deplete their asset base – a process in conflict with the current policy aim of ensuring financial independence into retirement.

“Existing on Newstart is already tough enough. 

“The payment is inadequate. 

“This bill is designed to make things even tougher.”

Catholic Religious Australia supports an increase of at least $75 per week for all recipients of Newstart; that payments be indexed against wages and price increases commensurate with community standards and the cost of living; and that the Government not delay Newstart payments, as this may force people to exhaust modest savings during the wait-time for Newstart payments.

CRA president Marist Brother Peter Carroll said CRA’s commitment to human dignity meant it was concerned for the wellbeing of all people who relied on Newstart.

He said the requests for a weekly increase of $75 and a more appropriate indexing system for payments were vital to reduce poverty and enable people who received income support to live with dignity.

CRA strongly supports Vinnies’ concerns over the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2017, which will exacerbate the conditions in which people enter into poverty and long-term unemployment. 

“In light of the federal budget surplus announced earlier this month, we urge the Government to use the research findings and submissions of various experts to inform their decision-making for the long-term benefit of citizens and the preservation of human dignity,” Br Carroll said.

Mr O’Connor said the measures the Government was pushing for would contribute to deeper poverty and financial instability by forcing people to deplete modest savings, or go into debt before being able to access income support.

“Making it more difficult for people who have fallen on hard times will not account for the fact that there are not enough jobs to go around, especially for particular groups of people,” he said.

“As the Budget moves to surplus, we must ensure we do not leave anyone behind – especially those who need a hand-up.

“Unemployment has risen and the number of available full-time, secure jobs is falling.

“Safety nets generally, are being undermined and the most vulnerable people are paying dearly for these public policy failures.

“Measures outlined in this bill may provide a short-term gain for the budget bottom line, but they will deliver long-term costs by further exacerbating the conditions in which people enter into poverty and long-term unemployment.”

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