Anglicare Australia urges federal government to increase Jobseeker payments

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Some of Australia’s lowest income earners are struggling to stay financially afloat as JobSeeker payments fail to keep up with rising living costs, advocates warn.

Latest research by Anglicare Australia found most Centrelink payments, which are only raised by CPI, are failing to cover basic weekly budgets despite essential costs growing much faster than inflation.

While Australia’s monthly CPI indicator remained at 3.4 per cent in February, Anglicare’s Back to Basics report, released on Tuesday, revealed a lack of change in JobSeeker meant payments were not covering basic living costs.

Executive director Kasy Chambers said people on lower incomes were paying a higher price for rising living costs than others.

“Our research shows that it costs more to be poor,” Ms Chambers said.

“For decades, people on the lowest incomes were already falling short on the cost of basics.

“But over the last two years, the cost of essentials like rent, food, and utilities has been skyrocketing.“

The report found the unequal impacts of inflation on Australian households meant:

  • Housing costs had gone up by 22 per cent;
  • Food and groceries had gone up by 17 per cent;
  • Electricity costs had gone up by 17 per cent; and
  • Transport costs had gone up by 11 per cent.

Ms Chambers said these inflationary impacts to household budgets meant some Aussies were spending more of their weekly budgets on essentials.

“When their incomes fall even further behind living costs, they have no room to move and no other costs to cut out of their budgets,” she said.

“That punishes people who are already earning less.

“Some people find themselves in debt spirals trying to juggle all of their costs.

“Others forego basic essentials by skipping meals, missing medical appointments, and avoiding getting insurance – only to pay for it down the track.”

Anglicare Australia is calling on the government to immediately increase the working age payments.

The report recommended raising the rate of all social security payments above the Henderson Poverty Line, which accounts for essential costs and includes a dedicated poverty line after housing.

Ms Chambers said an Independent Social Security Commission should also be established to help prevent further financial stress for everyday Aussies.

“These numbers show us that Australians doing it tough need real action, and real leadership,” she said.

“That means raising the rate of Centrelink payments, making the minimum wage a living wage, and creating cheaper insurance and energy options for people who need them. 

“People on low incomes did not create Australia’s cost-of-living crisis.

“They shouldn’t be asked to pay a higher price for it.

“We need a plan to stop the lowest paid Australians from being pushed deeper into poverty.”

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