COVID-19 welfare increases must be made permanent

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With the release of its annual Rental Affordability Snapshot, Anglicare Southern Queensland is calling for the Australian Government’s temporary COVID-19 welfare increases to be made permanent and extended to aged pensioners and people with a disability

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Anglicare Southern Queensland is calling for the Australian Government’s temporary COVID-19 welfare increases to be made permanent and extended to aged pensioners and people with a disability.

The not-for-profit charity’s call comes with the release of its annual Brisbane Rental Affordability Snapshot, which found the private rental market remains out of reach for people on low incomes and government payments.

Key findings include:

Executive Director Karen Crouch said the increased COVID-19 payments were welcome, but must be made permanent to stop Queenslanders being pushed out of secure housing and towards poverty and homelessness.

“The private rental market is dire for people on low incomes and renters are at the frontline of this pandemic. Many are losing their incomes and some are scared of being forced out of their homes,” Ms Crouch said.

“Over recent months we’ve seen many things previously considered not possible or not a priority happen almost overnight.

“We’ve all seen the evidence that Australia’s welfare payments were out of touch with reality, and we’ve all heard the calls from charities, leading businesses and industry groups for payments to low-income earners, job seekers and pensioners to be increased to at least match the cost of living.

“Now, after more than two decades of resistance, the Australian Government doubles the rates of Newstart (now the JobSeeker Payment), Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, Austudy and Abstudy, among others, with a $550 per fortnight increase for six months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While only temporary, it is a clear acknowledgement from the Government that the Newstart/JobSeeker rate of $40 a day or less was completely inadequate to live on.”

“Everybody deserves a safe place to live and no individuals should ever have to sacrifice eating or pleasure just to have a roof over their head. Rental prices are sky-high, job opportunities are low and there are many single parents, including myself, who are desperately trying to create a better life for themselves and their children…I have many friends who spend between 40%-70% of their income just on rent alone, before bills, groceries and expenses. This issue is everyone’s problem.” (Josh, former Anglicare SQ client, ACSQ Rental Affordability Snapshot p.2)

Ms Crouch said the increased payments were expected to make a positive difference to housing affordability in Brisbane, and for some people would mean the difference between eating and not eating.

This year’s Rental Affordability Snapshot found that in the Brisbane metro area, more than 200 additional families would find appropriate private rental sector housing more affordable, if the increases were made permanent.

“It would reduce the tension they face between paying rent or putting food on the table, and it would have generational benefits, as their children grow up carrying fewer experiences and effects of poverty,” Ms Crouch said.

“Despite the recent increase in benefits however, the situation is still dire for many. There are still few household types in Brisbane in which median rent, as a percentage of household income, comes close to meeting the 30% benchmark for housing affordability.

“The Snapshot shows the extent to which Australia’s rental sector is still failing people on low incomes.

“The worst scenario is for a young person on youth allowance, the median rent is 109% of their income and even a room in a share house is 70% of their income.

“And for those on the Age Pension and people with a disability, there is no change at all, so they are still in a very difficult situation.

“Our frontline workers see the flow-on effects of this, with women aged over 55 one of the fastest groups of people experiencing homelessness in Brisbane.

“We know that people and businesses will be recovering from this downturn for years, and low-income earners and people relying on welfare to survive will be the hardest hit.

“If income support rates are halved in six months — and if those who are most vulnerable are left out — people will be pushed even deeper into poverty and homelessness.

“These increases must become permanent, and they must go to everyone in need.”

Download the full Brisbane Rental Affordability Snapshot report.

 

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