5 Million Australians Receive Welfare Payment Boost

People on welfare programs will see increases of $20 (US$12.9) to $56 per fortnight
5 Million Australians Receive Welfare Payment Boost
Australian dollars are seen in an illustration photo on Feb. 8, 2018. (Daniel Munoz/Reuters)
Alfred Bui

Over five million welfare recipients in Australia will receive a small pay rise from Sept. 20.

The changes will allow people on welfare programs to get additional payments of between $20 (US$12.9) and $56 per fortnight.

This is part of the federal government’s $14.6 billion living cost package announced in May, which included a wide range of subsidies and support payments.

The government has said it has no plan to provide more cost-of-living relief after this package but instead will focus on repairing the budget to reduce the pressure facing households.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth welcomed the welfare boost, saying it would provide practical assistance to struggling Australians.

“It means more money in the pockets of those doing it toughest, and that will make a difference,” she said.

“We know that many people are doing it tough right now and they expect us to assist where we can to help with the cost of living, particularly for those on the lowest incomes. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

The minister also noted that while some of the changes were due to normal indexation, which took into account inflation, the others were the result of the government’s decision to increase the amount of support payments to help people cope with rising living costs.

Welfare Payment Increases

Under the changes, single recipients of welfare programs, such as JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY, and the Youth Disability Support Pension, will get an additional $56.1 per fortnight.

Renters on income support will get up to $27.60 more per fortnight as a result of indexation and the government expanding the budget of the Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 15 percent.

The government expected that 1.1 million households across Australia would benefit from the above policy.

A man walks into a Medicare and Centrelink office at Bondi Junction in Sydney, Australia, on March 21, 2016. (Matt King/Getty Images)
A man walks into a Medicare and Centrelink office at Bondi Junction in Sydney, Australia, on March 21, 2016. (Matt King/Getty Images)

The support payments for single parents will rise $20.30 per fortnight, while those of veterans on a service pension and people on the Disability Compensation Payment will lift by $32.70 per fortnight and $53 a fortnight, respectively.

In addition, recipients of the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, and Carer Payment will receive an extra $32.70 per fortnight if they are single or $49.40 for couples.

The government also will raise the income limits for single recipients of the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card by $5,400 to $95,400 a year and by $8,640 to $152,640 a year for couples.

Mixed Response

Despite the Labor government’s enthusiasm, the increases in welfare payments received lukewarm responses from other political parties.

The Opposition had previously stated that it did not support the boost and called on the government to double the income-free threshold for welfare recipients as an incentive to encourage people to work more.

Nevertheless, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said his party would not stand in the way of Labor’s welfare rises.

Meanwhile, Greens Senator Janet Rice was disappointed with the boost, saying it still left people in poverty.

“The changes coming into effect today don’t bring Jobseeker, student, and youth allowance payments close to the poverty line, let alone make them enough to live on,” she said.

“People on Jobseeker will still struggle to afford food as well as their medicine, more and more students will abandon their studies because they can’t afford to study and pay the rent.”

Echoing the sentiment, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) said the JobSeeker rate should have increased to at least $78 a day in line with the pension.

“An incremental increase to the rate means nothing when it is so low to begin with. We’re punishing people for being unemployed and, perversely, making it as hard as possible for them to gain employment,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said in a statement.

“It’s cruel to expect anyone to be able to meet the basic cost of living – buying food or medication, paying their bills, or keeping up with rent to avoid becoming homeless.”

Alfred Bui is an Australian reporter based in Melbourne and focuses on local and business news. He is a former small business owner and has two master’s degrees in business and business law. Contact him at [email protected].
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