Welfare Recipients Are Being Screwed Over By The Federal Budget

"People in low paid jobs and people without a job are at breaking point."

Welfare Budget

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Despite a major focus on the cost of living, the Morrison Government has failed to adequately address welfare and social security concerns in their Federal Budget for 2022-23.

Advocacy groups have been calling for more liveable welfare spending, but this year has seen over $3 billion cut from assistance to the unemployed and the sick, according to a social security and welfare summary of expenses.

As at February, there are over one million people on JobSeeker and Youth Allowance, and more than 20 percent of those on unemployment payments are actually employed but unable to escape welfare, according to the Antipoverty Centre.

Buzz Off One-Off

A main talking point for the government is a measly $250 bonus payment to help alleviate living pressures, as part of a $1.5 billion commitment spread across six million eligible pensioners, welfare recipients, veterans, and concession cardholders.

But advocacy groups and people receiving Centrelink support say the one-off payment is both short-term and shortsighted.

“Living costs are spiralling, people are still recovering from the pandemic, and many communities are reeling after floods and storms. One-off payments and tax cuts are not the answer to these problems, and Australians know it,” said Anglicare Australia’s Acting Executive Director Maiy Azize in a statement.

“The Government says that this budget will help people meet their everyday costs. But they seem blind to those who are struggling the most. The fact is that one-off payments and tax cuts won’t help people out of poverty.”

The Australian Council of Social Service agreed, saying that while the payment is obviously a small win, it doesn’t go far enough in helping lift the incomes of people with the least.

“Whilst we welcome the extension of a $250 bonus payment to people on pensions and allowances, if you’re living on $46 a day, this payment will help for a week or two, but people have to pay the rent 52 weeks a year,” said their CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

Smoke And Mirrors

The spin this year is that less social service support is needed both because COVID disaster payments have been scaled down by 90 percent, and because the unemployment rate is set to drop down to 3.75 percent — therefore those who still need help no longer require additional attention, in the eyes of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

“More people in work, fewer on welfare,” he said in one of his pithy taglines from his annual Budget Speech.

“People in low paid jobs and people without a job are at breaking point…”

In a program component expense chart, the government predicted $3 billion less will be needed for JobSeeker, and $118 million less for Youth Allowance, given 700,000 less people are now on welfare payments — amounting to a wider $11 billion being axed in the next four years if the Morrison Government is re-elected at the next Federal Election.

A small increase to the JobSeeker, age pension, disability support, and carer payments was introduced on March 20 at around $20 extra a fortnight. The cash boost is feared to not fully cover rising inflation rates, nor meet calls for welfare recipients to receive an additional $20 a day, as advised by a recent report by Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre.

The Antipoverty Centre said the figures don’t accurately reflect the day-to-day reality of Australia’s unemployed. “People in low paid jobs and people without a job are at breaking point,” said spokesperson Kristin O’Connell.

“The rosy picture painted by the government after [March’s] unemployment figures were published doesn’t reflect reality for the millions of people who are forced to survive on poverty-level Centrelink payments because there aren’t enough jobs.”

Millie Roberts is Junkee’s social justice reporter. Follow her on Twitter.