Call to boost Newstart benefit as people slip into poverty

Member for Page Janelle Saffin
Member for Page Janelle Saffin

AT LEAST 2231 people in the Valley are living below the poverty line.

Unemployment in the Valley remains higher than the national average and recent research by the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) shows Centrelink's Newstart payment for unemployed people forces them to live below the poverty line.

Federal member for Page Janelle Saffin said the situation was unacceptable and "these people who are among our most vulnerable must be better supported through an increase to the Newstart allowance".

Ms Saffin said a Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research report in March stated Newstart, at $381.40 a fortnight, falls $136 short of the poverty line.

She also said Newstart is just 18% of the average wage, which "the OECD says, makes it the second lowest unemployment benefit in the developed world".

Ms Saffin also linked a Newstart allowance increase to reducing unemployment and said she supports "calls for an increase in income support to help people find secure, decent work".

"It is clear from the recent Senate inquiry regarding the adequacy of Newstart allowance that people transitioning between jobs are faced with many challenges," said Ms Saffin.

National Party hopeful for the seat of Page, Kevin Hogan, said he would wait for the findings of a multi-party committee in Canberra which is considering whether Newstart should be increased but he did say action needed to be taken to reduce poverty in the Valley.

"Any measure that reduces poverty in our community, I support," said Mr Hogan.

"There is a multi-party committee looking at the Newstart allowance now, and I look forward to its recommendations.

"Poverty in our community would also be alleviated by a new government which is less wasteful than the current one."

However, it was his view a Liberal National Government would try to solve the issue by focusing on the business sector.

"We need a responsible government focused on making it easier for local businesses to employ people," he said.

Anglicare, a community organisation which helps people on government benefits, said many were literally forced to go without food.

"We were shocked to find that 76% of households requesting emergency relief from us are severely food insecure," said Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers.

"Adults in one third of these households went without food for a day, most weeks, over a three-month period.

"Of this group, adults in 22,000 households go without food for a whole day, most weeks."

Anglicare also highlighted how unaffordable housing was, even in the Valley.

It found no homes were affordable to single people on Newstart or Youth Allowance/Austudy.

Food facts

76% of households needing emergency relief don't have enough food

One third of adults in that group go without some food for a day, most weeks

Some adults go without food for a whole day, most weeks

Topics:  centrelink newstart

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