Newstart decision 'leaves thousands hanging in the balance'

DESPITE more than 50 submissions from social services group calling for an increase to the Federal Government's Newstart Allowance, a Senate inquiry into Centrelink payments has not recommended any change.

A Senate committee reported its findings on the adequacy of the Newstart Allowance on Thursday.

But despite numerous submissions citing the fact that the allowance had not increased in real terms for 20 years, and majority support for an increase to the allowance, the majority of committee members did not recommend a rise in payments.

The committee was dominated by government members, which Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said had made a decision to leave thousands of single-parent families hanging in the balance.

Senator Siewert said due to changes to the government's welfare system coming into effect next year, some 84,000 single parent families would be added to the existing number of Australians receiving the payment.

"The failure of the committee to even recommend changing the indexation of Newstart will mean that the payment will continue to drift further from the real cost of living faced by those on a low income, while the other parties drift further out of touch with Australians doing it tough," she said.

Senator Siewert said the government should not be putting more people on an inadequate payment, and should be increasing the payment for those already receiving the welfare benefit.

"I've just this week received an email from a single mother, who said she will not only be put on the Newstart Allowance next year, but she will actually be $200 worse off a fortnight because of the government's decision," she said.

"Several of the government's own Senators expressed their preference for the allowance to be increased during the committee's inquiry, but the majority report has refused these people that increase.

"It is simply not appropriate for the government to be putting more people on a payment that is not enough to cover living expenses - they are putting more people into a situation of poverty."

While the committee report did not recommend an increase to the allowance, it did make several recommendations to improve the allowance, including an online calculator for payments.

The committee also recommended the government "consider" increasing the resources available to people in their first few weeks out of work.

Employment Minister Bill Shorten said the government would give "careful and serious consideration" to the report.

Topics:  centrelink, newstart allowance, senate inquiry



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