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1 March 2021
Words Lauren Martin
The Salvation Army has responded to the Federal Government’s announcement last month that it will raise the JobSeeker payment by $25 a week, saying it’s not enough.
The Salvation Army says its evidence, gathered from working with people reliant on the JobSeeker payment, and informed by economic analysis by third parties, is that an increase of $125 a week is the “absolute minimum” needed to allow Australians to live with “frugal dignity”.
Lieutenant-Colonel Lyn Edge, Secretary for Mission for The Salvation Army, said, “A permanent increase of $25 a week does not even begin to address the depths of disadvantage in Australia. This cannot be the end of the conversation. We know from working directly with people on JobSeeker, that on the current supplement [which amounts to $75 a week above the base rate] they are already struggling to afford basic needs. There needs to be a substantial increase to the base rate of JobSeeker, as well as broader reform, to actually support people to move back into work.
“We had some hope when the treasurer said that he wanted people to be able to live with dignity but, frankly, $25 a week will not achieve that. Obviously, any increase at all is a step in the right direction, but this announcement still leaves us in a situation where Australians are trapped in poverty.”
The Salvation Army has called for the government to introduce better incentives for people to work that are focused on increasing people’s employability and capacity to work. “A more targeted approach, especially to assist people experiencing mental ill-health and those with a partial capacity to work to ease into the workforce, will achieve better results for both the community and the economy,” Lyn said.
Major Paul Hateley, Head of Government Relations for The Salvation Army, said, “The base rate of JobSeeker has not been increased in real terms for more than a quarter of a century. In real terms, that means that the rate is now so low that most people cannot afford to buy healthy food, or pay for electricity, internet and transport. An additional $3.57 per day will not fix the problem.”
The Salvation Army says increasing JobSeeker by an amount too little to allow people to live with dignity entrenches a welfare model that relies on the charitable sector to pick up the slack.
Frontline workers at Salvation Army churches and centres are now preparing for a substantial increase in demand as soon as the changes come into force.
“Our teams are bracing for an increase in demand as people are forced to make even more sacrifices,” Paul said. “We will do everything we can to help, but this announcement will cause a lot of pain in our community.”