National aged care consumer peak bodies Council on the Ageing (COTA) and National Seniors Australia, have thrown their support behind Newstart increases that will benefit 350,000 older job seekers living in poverty.
Chief Executive of COTA, Ian Yates, says the current Federal Budget is not benefitting older job seekers on Newstart and that it needs to be raised by $75 a week with an included energy rebate.
Currently, there are 183,000 people over the age of 50 who have been on Newstart for over 12 months.
“There are more unemployed workers between 55 and 64 than any other group of Australians and they receive Newstart income support payments longer than any other group as well,” Mr Yates says.
“Older workers face chronic age discrimination in the workforce, which means finding work after 50 is far more difficult, particularly in industries where workforce needs have changed over the decades.
“$40 a day – or $15,000 a year – is just not enough to survive on while people are actively seeking to return to the workforce. If people don’t have enough to cover the basics, people will be dealing with financial stress rather than working to build a future.”
A recent survey undertaken by COTA found Australians aged between 50 and 64 years, unemployed and renting, felt great financial stress with around one in four people facing overdue energy bills as they are unable to pay on time.
COTA believes the “inadequacy” of Newstart is potentially creating poverty for older workers going into retirement.
In the current Federal Budget, Newstart recipients are also no longer able to receive the $75 energy supplement.
However, COTA has pointed out that the opposition’s rebuttal budget is still not addressing the issue of pensioner poverty.
“Poverty is an increasing reality for jobless older Australians demoralised by long-term unemployment and an inadequate Newstart allowance that hasn’t been adequately increased for decades,” says a National Seniors Australia spokesperson.
Pensioner poverty has been a long-standing issue in Australia. In 2016, a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) found one in three pensioners in Australia were living below the poverty line.
The Raise The Rate campaign has been pushing for a change to Newstart and other related payments as the allowance hasn’t been increased in over 24 years.