Huge relief for those in desperate need

3 Apr, 2020

Recently, the Government announced a long-awaited increase to the Jobseeker Allowance (formerly Newstart) and Youth Allowance Job Seeker payment with the Temporary Coronavirus Supplement. CAP welcomes this announcement as an enormous relief for those in desperate need and commends that it was later expanded to include recipients of many other payment types who are also vulnerable at this time. 

This announcement is significant, as the Jobseeker Allowance hasn’t been raised in real terms for 26 years. Up until now, those on the Jobseeker Allowance were living on $40 a day, or $282 per week. This 6-month long supplement, which will be applied on 27 April, increases this weekly amount by $275 per week, or almost double.  

That’s quite an increase, but how does it stack up to the need? 

The poverty line in Australia for a single adult is $426.30 per week1 and according to the Household Expenditure Measure, the minimum living expenses (not including housing) for a single person is between $254–$300 per week2. Prior to the Temporary Coronavirus Supplement, individuals were receiving just $282 per week.  

In Australia, 1 in 8 adults live below this poverty line. For CAP clients, the ratio is 1 in 4. 

For many CAP clients, living on Jobseeker Allowance payments is exceptionally challenging. Huge sacrifices must be made to sustain oneself on such a small amount, which can have long term consequences. For example, nearly half of all CAP clients have skipped meals regularly simply because they couldn’t afford groceries.3 For these clients, it has always been difficult for CAP’s specialist budgeting team to come up with a solution outside of bankruptcy. 

Sadly, due to the current pandemic that has gripped the world and changed everyday life as we know it, the number of people looking for work has skyrocketed, with heart-breaking scenes of large queues outside Centrelink offices around Australia.  

Maybe you are one of these or are concerned about losing your job. Thankfully, the government has recognised that the pandemic will place a lot of people and families in dire circumstances, and therefore moved quickly to make this Temporary Coronavirus Supplement available to those who need it. This will bring great relief to CAP clients who were already struggling, and for whom the impact of the virus could be catastrophic.   

CAP’s hope is that the introduction of this temporary supplement will highlight to Australian society why it’s important to look after the vulnerable and people in need.  

The Temporary Coronavirus Supplement is a great step, and worthy of acknowledgement. However, when this 6-month period is up, it’s imperative that the Jobseeker Allowance isn’t allowed to drop back to its previous levels. As Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) CEO Cassandra Goldie said: 

“Just as $40 a day is not enough for people who lose their jobs now because of this crisis, it’s not enough for those who will continue to struggle to find paid work once this crisis subsides. Whether people lose work due to coronavirus, bushfires, or simply because there are not enough jobs available at any time, we need a social safety net that works for all, at all times.” 

CAP has been and will continue to support people on their journey out of debt and into freedom. Sadly, it is inevitable that even with the government’s measures, demand for CAP’s service will increase in the aftermath of the pandemic. Therefore, though it might be challenging, CAP will continue to push forward and advocate on behalf of the vulnerable and the poor.