The Federal Government’s commitment to a $25 per week long-term rise to the JobSeeker rate is not enough, according to ac.care chief executive officer Shane Maddocks. He said the $50 per fortnight increase, equating to $3.57 per day, when the $150 coronavirus supplement expires at the end of March, would lock job seekers back into poverty.
“We are already seeing rent stress and the lack of affordable housing pushing people to the brink of homelessness in regional areas,” Mr Maddocks said. “The government must go further to ensure we have a true safety net for unemployed people that allows them to afford basic necessities to sustain a tenancy and appropriate lifestyle.”
Mr Maddocks said the Federal Government announcement signalled a cut to JobSeeker and YouthAllowance payments, not an increase, once the coronavirus supplement was axed. “The government lifted people out of poverty in 2020 with the coronavirus co-payments, but now these same people are having their payments cut again to almost half of the poverty line,” he said.
“It’s simply not good enough and does not do enough to protect and support vulnerable people in our community.” Meanwhile, he said increased mutual obligation expectations, including “onerous” employment application requirements, were also “excessive”, particularly with the lack of appropriate jobs in regional areas.
“People will be required to apply for 20 jobs per month from July, but will be left without enough money to afford the necessities of life,” Mr Maddocks said. “We want to see people who are able to work entering the workforce to build a more sustainable and hopeful future, but they must be supported to do so, not penalised.”
Mr Maddocks said the JobActive network remained overdue for an overhaul to ensure it helped people into work effectively. Anglicare Australia’s 2020 Jobs Availability Snapshot focused on people who face barriers to work, including older people, youths who did not finish Year 12 and individuals with disabilities.
It found 10 of these job seekers were competing for each suitable job and nationally there were more than 100 job seekers for each entry-level job. “Unemployed and underemployed people are facing cuts to their payments and being forced to jump through hoops and apply for jobs, but research shows the jobs just aren’t there,” Mr Maddocks said.
“JobActive should be reformed as it simply is not helping people find work, but instead focusing on private providers punishing and breaching people, and JobSeeker must be increased so people are not trapped in poverty, but can get their lives together – if we don’t fix this broken system, we will go on forcing people to compete for jobs that simply don’t exist.”