Young people falling behind living on just $35 per day

As the Australian Government delivers its report on the Senate Inquiry into the adequacy of Newstart and other allowance payments today, the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) continues to urge the government to provide appropriate support to young unemployed people and students, by raising the Newstart and Youth Allowances by $50 per week.

“There is no doubt that young people reliant on these payments live in poverty. Newstart is now so low – at just $35 per day. Young people who are receiving government benefits are telling us that they cannot afford to buy medicines, or pay for basics like train fares or suitable clothing when they go for job interviews,” AYAC’s Executive Director, Andrew Cummings said today.

According to 20 year old Kristen*, trying to make ends meet on Youth Allowance – a lower payment than the Newstart allowance – is very stressful.

“Well, I don’t eat nearly enough as I should because I can’t afford food. My uncle pressures me about saving, even if it’s just $50 a fortnight but I just cannot do that because that’s $50 that I need to live on. I just feel so useless on Youth Allowance,” she said.

Kristen is currently renting, is trying to finish her Year 12 at a “second chance school”, and does not have any family support from her immediate family. All of this makes completing high school particularly challenging.

“I feel like I can’t last long with anything, the stress just gets so hard,” she said.

AYAC says that if the government wants to see significant improvement to school retention rates, tertiary qualifications and reducing youth unemployment, a significant increase in Youth Allowance and Newstart is essential. Many young people – especially those with unstable home lives and a lack of family support – will be prevented from improving their work or study prospects.

“Young people are already disadvantaged in the labour market and financial hardship further alienates young people from completing education or finding work,” AYAC Executive Director Andrew Cummings said.

With the youth unemployment rate currently at 16%, young people are much more vulnerable to unemployment than other workers. And many young people who rely on government benefits face multiple obstacles to entering the workforce, such as a lack of education, homelessness, and poor access to transport.

AYAC believes that on top of adequate income support, the government should be providing youth-friendly supports to engage young people into work or study.

The federal government recently passed legislation so that 21 year olds who have not completed Year 12 now lose access to Newstart and stay on the lower Youth Allowance until they turn 22 – a drop in income of $43 a week.

“AYAC supports the government’s aim to get young people engaged in work or study, but this measure will simply make young people poorer, without providing genuine support to help vulnerable young people into employment,” Mr Cummings said.

For further comment, please contact Andrew Cummings (m) 0435 146 979 (p) 02 9212 0500 (e) andrew@ayac.org.au

The Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) is the national voice for Australia’s young people and the youth support sector.www.ayac.org.au