Could you pay your rent and bills, buy food and try look for work or training on $40 a day? The challenges this presents to people on Newstart and Youth Allowance are being highlighted tomorrow (Friday, May 10) at the Raise the Rate community forum in Lismore in the electorate of Page which is one of the key marginal seats in this election. The forum is being hosted by ACOSS (Australian Council of Social Service) and is calling for an increase for Newstart.
‘Australia’s income support system was designed to help people when they are going through tough times to support them into suitable paid work,’ said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie. ‘But Newstart is not working – the rate has not been increased in real terms for 25 years while living costs for people on low incomes have gone through the roof.’
The community forum is being held at the Lismore Workers Club, 231 Keen Street, Lismore from 1 till 2.30pm and they will be hearing from local residents receiving Newstart who will share their stories about how tough it is to survive on the current rate of $40 per day.
‘It is an open forum and we are keen to hear from people that have lived experience and engagement with the issues and are inviting people to come along,’ said a spokesperson for ACOSS.
Page: a marginal seat where your vote counts
Currently there are 10,044 residents in the electorate of Page receiving either the Newstart or Youth Allowance and the call to Raise the Rate has recently been joined by the Country Women’s Association Australia (CWAA).
‘We support the Raise the Rate campaign to increase Newstart and other allowances because an increase will strengthen our communities and help people get through tough times,’ said CWAA president Tanya Cameron.
‘Rural and regional communities have been hit hard with drought and floods, with many of these areas experiencing high rates of unemployment.
‘It is impossible to live on $40 a day in rural and regional Australia. You cannot run a car, pay the rent and buy groceries with such little money.
‘Raising the rate of Newstart and other allowances will help people focus on their futures rather than be totally consumed with their current situation of financial crisis,’ she said.
Maureen Buckingham, a Newstart recipient in her early 60s says, ‘It is a struggle to survive on Newstart, even with me being paid the higher base amount due to my age (over 60).’
‘My basic expenses of food, minimal rent, as I own my house, insurances, water, electricity and vehicle running costs see me $70 per week short and this must be paid for from my savings for retirement from my superannuation account. This is just to keep the roof over my head, food on the table and a vehicle running to try and find work and commute to work should I be lucky enough to get a job.’
With just over one week until the federal election ACOSS are travelling to Lismore to hear directly from members of the local community and to strengthen their call on the government and all candidates to pledge their support for the campaign.