Anglicare Australia’s Executive Director Kasy Chambers described the Senate Committee Inquiry into the adequacy of income support, announced today, as a vital opportunity for Government.
“Cost of living pressures such as rent and power bills hurt people living on low incomes much more than most of those on the average wage or better” Ms Chambers said. “And a number of allowances, such as Newstart and Youth Allowance, have been falling further and further behind pensions and wage rises for many years now.
“Economists and business leaders across the country share Anglicare Australia’s view that an inadequate income makes it harder for people to find work, to connect into their communities, or benefit from school or training.”
“The Government must take this Senate Inquiry seriously. It is a vital opportunity to learn just how adequate existing income support is, or isn’t, and what in all fairness Government should do.
“National survey questions commissioned by Anglicare Australia last year found that 80% of all Australians believed government allowances should cover the increased costs of living or be linked to the average wage, with only 3% supporting the line that the level be set to help governments balance their books.”
“Anglicare Australia will draw on the considerable expertise of our network, with more than 40 member organisations in communities right across the country, to contribute to the inquiry. We will argue that current allowances such as Newstart, through their inadequacy, do not allow a new start at all, but rather trap too many Australians in poverty and ill health.
“The question is not just about the level of income support today, but also how the level is set. When we asked who should decide on those income levels, our national survey showed Australians had remarkably consistent views. More than 60% of those surveyed agreed that welfare levels should be set by an independent body, at arm’s length from government, with only a quarter believing it should stay a part of the Government budget process.
“And so Anglicare Australia will be calling for pensions and allowances to be set by an independent body, a Fair Benefits Commission perhaps, which can consider the real cost of living as it affects people on low incomes” Ms Chambers said.