JobSeeker 'increase' is actually 'appalling' cut, say Christian welfare groups

The government has today announced a small but permanent increase to income support payments for jobseekers, provoking condemnation from Christian welfare organisations who have been campaigning on this issue.

JobSeeker payments will increase by $50 a fortnight from April 1. However, this comes after the government phases out its coronavirus supplement on March 31.

The actual increase equates to just under $4 a day when compared to pre-COVID levels of income support for jobseekers. So the 1.6 million Australians on JobSeeker will receive almost $44 a day, instead of $40 a day before the coronavirus supplement was introduced.

“This decision will force many people to survive on incomes that keep them living in poverty.” – James Toomey, Mission Australia

Mission Australia has slammed the announcement as “disappointing and inadequate”, saying the reduction will “push many into poverty and homelessness”. It has also called on the Federal Government to “urgently reconsider the decision, and commit to an adequate increase to JobSeeker and related allowances”.

“The new JobSeeker rate announced by the Government is insufficient. To increase the rate by only $50 a fortnight is an appalling decision. This rate is far too low, and we will see the continuing impacts of this on rates of disadvantage, poverty and homelessness in Australia,” said Mission Australia CEO James Toomey.

“Already, many people surviving on income support are facing immense distress and insecurity. Moving to a JobSeeker rate of $615.70 a fortnight – or around $44 a day – is unfathomable and will not help get people back into work … This decision will force many people to survive on incomes that keep them living in poverty.”

Anglicare Australia and UnitingCare Australia have also condemned the government’s announcement in a joint statement, saying it will push people who are unemployed below the poverty line.

“This announcement has cut the rate of JobSeeker by cutting the coronavirus supplement. Worse still, the government is trying to reframe that cut as an increase. Australians won’t buy that spin,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

“Every MP should be thinking about the message this announcement sends to their constituents who are out of work. Some people will need years to get back on track, and now they will be pushed into poverty indefinitely. Our research shows that many will be forced to skip meals, and others will not be able to pay the rent.

“People out of work have been strung along for months. They were lifted out of poverty in 2020 only to have their payments cut again and again with no certainty. Now their payments will be cut to almost half of the poverty line. That’s not good enough.

“What is being presented as an increase is in fact a cut. It will mean those out of work will … be pushed back into deep poverty.” – Claerwen Little, UnitingCare Australia

UnitingCare Australia National Director, Claerwen Little, described the decision as a “devastating blow” to jobseekers.

“What is being presented as an increase is in fact a cut. It will mean those out of work will lose $100 a fortnight and be pushed back into deep poverty when the coronavirus supplement ends in March,” said Little.

“Unemployment payments need to be above the poverty line. Increasing the base rate by a mere $3.60 a day is not enough to lift people out of poverty.”

Little added: “No one deserves to live in poverty. We need a permanent, adequate increase to JobSeeker that actually enables people to meet their needs and live with dignity.”

Meanwhile, in making the announcement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison described it as “the single-largest increase in the JobSeeker payment since the mid-1980s” .

He added: “But I think the more relevant feature to focus on is its percentage of the minimum wage. It brings up from 37.5 per cent to 41.2 per cent.”