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Newstart creates a sub-class of poorer, sicker Australians

cohealth appeared at the Senate Inquiry into the Adequacy of Newstart payments on Wednesday 20 November to tell the Committee about the devastating health impacts of living on Newstart.

CE, Nicole Bartholomeusz, told the committee that Newstart recipients are regularly forced to ration medicine, can’t afford specialist appointments, and delay seeking treatment resulting in pain and worsening conditions.

cohealth works with people experiencing disadvantage and sees firsthand the health impacts of living on Newstart, an income that leaves people living below the poverty line.

Ms Bartholomeusz’ address to the Senate Committee covered many of the key points from cohealth’s submission to the Senate Inquiry, including direct accounts of Newstart recipients:

  • Being unable to afford medications – particularly for those with multiple conditions
  • Rationing medications (e.g. one patient who will not take his medication for depression as sinus meds take precedence so he can breathe)
  • Not being able to afford specialist appointments. Wait times for public specialists can be years, during which time health deteriorates significantly
  • Not being able to afford allied health treatment that requires co-payment. Even small co-payments are out of reach for people on Newstart
  • Unable to afford dental care. Public dental waiting lists of up to years results in pain, worsening conditions, hospitalisations, loss of teeth
  • Experiencing ongoing stress and anxiety has a significant impact on mental health
  • Delaying care resulting in pain, worsening conditions and complications.

It’s shameful that people in a prosperous country can’t afford appropriate healthcare when and where they need it.

The woefully low rate of Newstart creates a sub-class of poorer, sicker Australians.

Depriving people of the means to manage their health runs counter to all that we know about the importance of prevention and early intervention in health care.

cohealth is urging the Federal Government to introduce an immediate increase to the Newstart Allowance of no less than $75 per week. This increase is in line with calls from other community services, business groups, social justice advocates and unions.

Increasing Newstart will not only provide economic relief for the many Australians locked out of paid work, it will deliver significant benefits to their physical and mental wellbeing and prevent much more costly treatment down the line.

The Senate Inquiry into the Adequacy of Newstart has held public hearings across the country. The Committee is due to report back on its findings in early 2020.

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