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New survey indicates JobSeeker cuts would mean extreme hardship for 1.6 million people

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A survey of people on JobSeeker released on Friday by the Australian Council of Social Service lays bare the grim outlook for people without paid work in this recession.

The Federal Government is planning to cut the Coronavirus Supplement on September 25, reducing incomes of people on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment by $300 per fortnight. The Government has said it may then fully remove the Supplement at Christmas time, taking people without paid work back to just $40 a day – the old Newstart rate. These cuts will affect 2.2 million people receiving the Coronavirus Supplement, including 1.6 million on JobSeeker and over 1 million children.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “It is heartbreaking to read the responses to this survey as people spell out the grim reality they face if the first cut goes ahead in just two weeks.”

The survey of 634 people conducted in August finds that if the Government goes ahead with the $300 per fortnight cut on September 25:
• 8 in 10 people said they will definitely have to skip meals and reduce how much fresh fruit and vegetables they buy
• 4 in 10 people on JobSeeker will have less than $14 a day, after paying their rent
• Over half (53 percent) said the cut will make it much harder to pay their rent, that they will need to forego essentials like food, medicine, and other expenses
• close to half (47 percent) said they will likely have to skip medicines or ration their doses, and that specialist services will be hard to pay for
• more than half (56 percent) said it would become much harder to pay bills, that they would likely have to forego some essentials, and would struggle to pay their bills on time.

“I couldn’t afford fresh food or medical costs on the old Newstart rate. Would probably have to stay on mum’s foldout sofa or a friend’s place, and have friends look after most of my stuff.”

“My kids won’t be able to attend day care as I won’t be able to afford it, my older kids will miss out on school activities if there is a cost involved, and we won’t be able to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables, which will negatively impact their health.”

More than 90 percent of survey respondents said if JobSeeker returned to the old Newstart rate at Christmas time there would be an ‘extreme’ or ‘significant’ impact on their finances.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “People are really struggling with the uncertainty of not knowing how they will cover the basics they need to get by, including their rent, with this devastating cut of $300 per fortnight just two weeks away and then another threatened at Christmas time.

“The reality is that people on JobSeeker are supporting our fragile economy to rebuild by spending on essentials like food, rent, medical care and utility bills.”

“The best way to support those hardest hit by the recession and support economic recovery and jobs is to provide the certainty of a permanent, adequate rate of JobSeeker and other social security payments without delay.

We need the Government to immediately extend the current income support arrangements to prevent income cuts in September, and legislate a permanent, adequate increase to social security payments at the next sittings of Parliament.” Dr. Goldie said.”

Story source: ACOSS

Photo: Vanessa Pike-Russell

Sarah Jacob

Sarah Jacob is a journalist and editor and is currently The Advocate's Deputy Editor. She has written for a range of print and online publications across Australia and internationally with a focus on the environment and human rights. Previously she worked in conservation science and protected area management, and has completed postgraduate degrees in journalism and marine science.

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