JobSeeker fails, Anglicare calls for independent 'Social Security Commission'

June 18, 2024
empty wallet
People on JobSeeker are left with little to no money leftover after paying basic living costs like rent and groceries. Photo: nohodamon/Flickr

Anglicare Australia not only wants federal Labor to raise all welfare payments, it is also calling for an independent “Social Security Commission” with the power to “set and adjust payments based on the actual cost of living”.

The organisation issued the call after publishing its latest Cost of Living Index report.

The report compared data on rent, transport and food against rates of income support. It found that it is “impossible” to live alone on the JobSeeker payment.

A single person living in a one-bedroom rental would have basic weekly living costs which exceed the JobSeeker payment by $135.

A single person living in a sharehouse would have only $127 a week left after basic costs. A single parent with one child, on the Single Parenting Payment, would have just $24 left.

Two people on the JobSeeker payment with two children would have living costs exceeding their payment by $17 a week.

Crucially, these calculations do not include other essentials such as electricity, water and phone bills, or medical costs and emergency expenses.

Previous Anglicare Australia reports have documented the difficulties faced by those on low incomes for years. They include skipping meals, getting into debt and navigating precarious and unstable housing.

This report said those the lowest incomes have fallen “even further behind” as the price of fresh food has “increased dramatically and the cost of petrol reached record highs last year”.

At the same time, “the rental market has never been less affordable”.

There has been no significant rise to JobSeeker and other payments since 1994.

Welfare payments are not benchmarked against the poverty line or any measure that rises with living costs: they are tied to the Consumer Price Index, which is “explicitly not designed to measure essential living costs”.

The only time JobSeeker recipients had some relief was during the COVID-19 lockdowns when the Coalition temporarily doubled welfare payments.

The report urged raising all payments immediately and a new independent Social Security Commission, with powers to “set and adjust payments based on the actual cost of living”.

It said the commission should include representatives with lived experience of poverty.

Anglicare also called for action to combat skyrocketing rents, which have increased by more than 50% since 2020, including an average 20% increase in the past year.

Anglicare’s previous Rental Affordability Snapshot found that there were no affordable homes for someone on JobSeeker and only 1% affordable for someone on the Single Parenting Payment.

It said supply of housing is not the issue. “Increasing supply in the private market has simply failed to make housing more affordable.

“The undersupply is not in housing, but in social and affordable housing.”

The report called on governments to use negative gearing to “target investment in social and affordable housing” and work with state and territory governments to grow the supply of such housing by 25,000 dwellings each year.

It called on Labor to “strengthen rental laws and protect people from unfair evictions and rent increases” and to “incrementally” reduce the capital gains tax discount.

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