Unemployed remain under the line

Advocates for young and vulnerable Australians are optimistic after the federal government announced an increase of $4 a week to people on Newstart and Youth Allowance.

Executive Director of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, Andrew Cummings is campaigning for an increase for people on the lowest benefit schemes.

He said he was pleased that this year’s federal budget recognised that Newstart and Youth Allowance provide too little to live on.

“We’re cautiously optimistic, there were some positive things in there: it was the first time in 20 years that there’s been any real rise in things like Newstart and Youth Allowance,” Mr Cummings said.

However, he was disappointed it didn’t go further.

“We along with other advocacy bodies like ACOSS have been calling for quite some time for a rise of about $50 a week to bring people on Newstart and youth allowance up to the poverty line. At the moment they are living significantly below it.”

Drew Manly and Anna Kretzschmar are typical of students struggling to survive on Youth Allowance.

They recently moved more than 12 kilometers away from their university in order to improve their living conditions.

“We were living in a rat infested slum, cramming eight people into a three bedroom house,” Ms Kretzschmar said.

Together they spend $20 a week on food because 80 per cent of their income goes towards paying rent.

They have no savings and rely on charity services almost every day.

“I’m already having problems keeping up with the university workload, there’s not enough time in the day to have a job as well,” Ms Kretzschmar said.

“The majority of well adjusted students are supported by their parents.”

Mr Cummings said a lot of politicians don’t understand that the rate needs to be high enough to allow social inclusion, particularly for people who are unemployed straight out of school or university, when it’s important for young people to be developing their social skills.

“If they cant go out, they can’t meet up with their friends regularly, what happens is that they don’t develop those social skills and often miss out and that can lead to things like anxiety and depression, it can lead to feeling socially isolated and it eats away at their self esteem,” he said.

There is widespread support from community and conservative groups to increase the allowance, however the Prime Minister and Treasurer have said repeatedly that they prefer to aim for full employment.

This year, the government will spend $8.8 billion (2.3 per cent of total budget) on the unemployed and sick, $24 billion on people with disabilities, and $51.1 billion assistance to the aged.

This article originally appeared on City Hub