The Raise the Rate forum in Lismore last Friday, hosted by ACOSS (Australian Council of Social Service), had a range of participants that came together to discuss the challenges of living on $40 a day and the importance of ensuring the most vulnerable are supported.
‘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 forum was attended by a range of people on Newstart and Youth Allowance, their families, academics, service providers, Lismore local government Councillors, plus two of the Page electorate candidates Patrick Deegan (Labor) and Dan Reid (Greens).
One local NGO worker who attended said the challenges of trying to provide shelter for their clients were significant.
‘We run out of tents, we run out of emergency food, we cannot find transitional accommodation [for our clients],’ they said.
People related their stories of being homeless or coming very close and how challenging it is to try and effectively look for work when you are trying to scrape by without enough money for food, rent and bills.
‘Applying for Centrelink was the most humiliating experience of my life’ said one of the older unemployed womanI have been applying for jobs with 65-165 applications’
‘I have been applying for jobs with 65 to165 applications,’ said Maureen relating the challenges of trying to get a job in an area that has high unemployment and each position gets huge numbers of applications.
‘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,’ said Country Women’s Association Australia (CWAA) president Tanya Cameron who have come out in support of the Raise the Rate campaign.
‘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.