Social services see a ‘bleak winter’ ahead

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It is a “cruel irony” that Newstart allowance has not increased, while better-off Australians have enjoyed two decades of tax cuts and concessions, according to the ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS).

Susan Helyar
Susan Helyar
ACTCOSS director Susan Helyar says the Newstart allowance is not enough to meet the cost of living in Canberra, let alone pay for other essentials to “make a new start in a job”.

“It’s a cruel irony that during two decades of tax cuts and growth of tax concessions, no government has been willing to show a corresponding generosity to the poorest people in our community by lifting Newstart Allowance to above the poverty line,” she says in response to the federal budget.

People on Newstart can now earn up to $100 a week with no reduction in their payment, but Ms Helyar says this is will not do much to change the situation.

She says people looking for work in Canberra must live on $35 a day, and that the new $100 per week threshold for earnings only increases that per-day income to $42.

“Reducing family benefits means tighter budgets for low income households,” Ms Helyar says. “I would have liked this belt tightening to be shared by higher income households – by equalising the tax treatment of income from superannuation with income from wages, and taxing capital gains more fairly.”

ACTCOSS  also supports more investment in the National Affordable Housing Agreement, increased resources to fight cancer and “ongoing support” for preschool education.

“But job cuts, spending cuts and inadequate income support are bad news – more people living on inadequate Newstart Allowance and more demand for financial assistance from already stretched community services. People out of work in Canberra face another bleak winter,” Ms Helyar says.

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