Centrelink JobSeeker payment: Call for $34-a-day increase amid cost of living crisis

Australia’s peak social services body has called for a huge increase to Centrelink payments, claiming more Australians are skipping meals and struggling to afford medicine as a consequence of skyrocketing cost of living pressures.

In a study set to be released on Tuesday, the Australian Council of Social Service said research found six in 10 Australians on income support were eating less, or had reported difficulties in accessing medicines or care, as it called on the Government to increase payments by as much as $34 per day.

ACOSS acting CEO Edwina McDonald said welfare recipients were facing “impossible choices”.

“No one should have to choose between food and medicine, but these are exactly the choices being forced on people in Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest nations,” Ms McDonald said.

The report calls for income support payments such as JobSeeker and Youth Allowance to be raised to $73 a day, with the payments currently set at $48 and $38 per day, respectively.

Other measures include increasing Commonwealth Rental Assistance by 50 percent, noting among their findings that 96 percent of welfare recipients reported being under rental duress.

“(T)here is no buffer when your income is $48 a day, let alone in the face of surging prices for food, petrol and rent,” Ms McDonald said.

Among the report’s other findings were that 57 percent of welfare recipients were shortening or taking fewer showers, while 70 percent of respondents said they had difficulty traveling to work or other appointments due to fuel costs.

Single mother-of-two Leilani Sinclair said after she paid rent, she was left with $400 to last a fortnight, which is needed to pay phone and internet bills as well as feeding her two sons.

“To make ends meet, we rely on loans from mum and food relief,” Ms Sinclair said.

Sunshine Coast couple Mark Goodrick and Jennifer Searson have been on income support since their business went bankrupt in 2020.

They said their payments were “barely above” the poverty line as they struggled to take care of their teenage daughter.

“For us, it is important to set an example of giving a bright future for her, but income support is so little, every decision we make is entirely micromanaged – down to the cost of toiletries of products for a young lady,” they told the Today show.

“Every decision – there’s no room for error if an emergency occurs.”

The government recently increased the JobSeeker rate by $25.70 per fortnight, but Mr Goodrick and Ms Searson argued this was not enough to counter other soaring costs.

“When you think about petrol’s now back up to $2 again, products have gone up 30 per cent, rent’s gone up in the double digits, it really doesn’t make much of an impact,” they said.

“Anything’s helpful, but I’m certainly not thinking that we’re out of the woods.”

It comes as federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers has flagged next month’s budget will have “responsible cost of living relief” and be on top of the agenda this week in federal parliament, but millions are struggling to get through each day.

Mr Chalmers said the government would continue to help Australians who were struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living.

“I think the situation confronting Jennifer and Mark is a situation that’s confronting a lot of Australians, as the cost of living goes through the roof,” he told the Today show.

“Pensions and payments went up last week, as they should. Every little bit helps, but we know that some people are still doing it really tough.

“What we’re trying to do as a government and in the budget that I hand down in October is to provide some responsible cost of living relief in a way that doesn’t force up inflation further and make the job of the independent Reserve Bank that much harder.”

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