cohealth is deeply disappointed at the Federal Government’s refusal to increase Jobseeker (formerly Newstart) payments by the $25 per day needed to lift people out of poverty, an increase that we, and thousands of other people and organisations, have been calling for.
Instead, today Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an increase to JobSeeker of less than $4 per day ($50 per fortnight). People will also be able to earn a little more income before their payments start to reduce, however this will provide no help for those on JobSeeker who are locked out of paid work, unable to find even part-time or casual employment.
The COVID JobSeeker supplement of $150 per week will expire at the end of March, a change which we know will have a devastating impact on the physical and mental health of our clients, and will likely result in an increase in demand for our services.
Working with people experiencing disadvantage we have seen firsthand the health impacts of living on JobSeeker which leaves people unable to buy decent food, afford essential medications and specialist treatments and keep a roof over their heads.
A $4 a day increase will not even cover the cost of a single prescription for a recipient living with debilitating health conditions or pay public transport fares to a job interview.
The stress of living below the poverty line, harsh mutual obligation requirements and stigma attached to unemployment is a tipping point for people developing mental health conditions, and it exacerbates existing conditions.
The current rhetoric suggesting that JobSeekers simply need to ‘try harder’ to get work is dangerous and damaging to people already struggling, and belies the fact that there is only one job available for every nine people currently looking for work.
cohealth has actively advocated for adequate unemployment payments in recent years, including signing on as an organisation to the Raise the Rate statement of support, ongoing support through our social media channels, and sending several letters directly to the Prime Minister, Treasurer and Minister for Social Affairs plus other key politicians.
We gave evidence at the Senate Inquiry into the adequacy of Newstart Allowance in 2019, and made a submission to the Inquiry
Despite today’s disappointing news we remain steadfast in our commitment to stand with the business community, union movement, economists, community sector, community leaders and many individuals who continue to advocate for adequate income support payments. All Australians, including those locked out of the job market, have the right to live free of poverty.
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cohealth is a Victorian not-for-profit community health organisation that strives to improve health and wellbeing for all. It provides universal access to services as well as targeted programs and assertive models to address the health disparities experienced by disadvantaged groups. cohealth offers a broad range of high quality, integrated health and support services, including medical oral, pharmacy, mental health and drug and alcohol services.