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2016 – 17 Budget: How long will we tolerate keeping people in serious poverty

Published: 3 May 2016

Yet again the government has chosen to leave young people and people seeking employment in poverty, missing the opportunity to increase government allowances. Newstart, youth and student allowances remain well below the level on which it is possible to survive without extreme poverty. Due to the differences in indexation, the value of Newstart Allowance has fallen by a third since 1997 in comparison to the aged pension. Newstart, Youth and Student Allowances are now just 55 per cent of the pension.

President of the AASW, Professor Karen Healy commends the Government on the aspiration to increase workforce participation of young people but the AASW remains concerned about whether the proposed Pre-Employment, Training and Hire scheme offers long term job prospects for young job seekers. The AASW continues to advocate for improved investment in public education to ensure that all children and young people develop the knowledge and skills they need to participate in emerging high skill areas of job growth.

The respected global company, KPMG, in their report entitled ‘Solving the structural deficit’, has also recommended an increase in Newstart. They have provided three cogent reasons including a clear statement that the payment is simply inadequate. KPMG also support the Gratin Institute in saying that the level is actually forming a barrier to employment and thirdly, the low level could actually be driving people towards the Disability Support Pension. The social and family reasons to increase these payments are compelling.

New research conducted jointly by the AASW and James Cook University has indicated that students, dependent on government allowances which are paid at a similar level to Newstart, are experiencing serious difficulties which affect their capacity to survive day to day. Nearly 40 per cent of those students indicated that they had to regularly go without food or other necessities because they could not afford them.

President of the AASW, Professor Karen Healy says it is not good enough that our society condemns those who cannot quickly find a job or students from lower socio-economic backgrounds to long periods of grinding poverty. “These low payments do not act as an incentive to find full-time work. Rather they act to entrench long term poverty,” she said. ‘This federal Budget was an opportunity for this government to start addressing the issues of poverty and hardship faced by people on government Allowances. So many budgets have neglected them.’

The AASW represents over 9,500 professional social workers from around Australia, many of whom work with people who are dependent on government allowances and along the front line of poverty prevention.

To organise an interview with AASW Chief Executive Officer, Glenys Wilkinson, please contact Media and Marketing Manager, Emma Pegrum, on 02 6199 5011 or 0408 200 191

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers