National Council CEO Toby oConnor wrote to the Prime Minister in July, prior to the economic update, drawing attention to the plight of many Australians affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic and the long-term impact on Australian society, focussing particularly on income support.
He noted that in the face of the current considerations about the future of JobKeeper and JobSeeker, the St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia strongly recommends that the Federal Government establishes an expert panel to advise the Government on revisions to Social Security payment rates that were originally designed to keep people out of poverty.
In summary, he said an independent panel of experts who could set and realistically index payments would provide the foundation for reflecting society’s expectations that payments are fair, equitable and sufficient to meet basic needs.
Predictions about the expected rate of unemployment continue to climb and we know there is currently only one job for every 13 people on Newstart or Youth Allowance.
Recent analysis shows that only a quarter of pre-COVID jobs have been reinstated to date and the hours available for work have significantly diminished.
Until the panel is established, JobKeeper should be maintained and either the current JobSeeker rate should be retained (an additional $560 per fortnight) or the payment match existing aged and disability pensions (an additional $370 per fortnight).
He acknowledged the Federal Government’s, swift and decisive action to lift people’s incomes during the onset of the pandemic and noted that our members have reported the success of these measures across metropolitan and regional communities.
He emphasised that our people on the ground see daily evidence in the turnaround in the lives of people who have received the higher level of financial support, and those who received access to accommodation and wraparound services since the advent of COVID-19.
He urged the Federal Government to take advantage of this opportunity to convert the temporary relief into enduring reform with enormous social and economic benefits and he offered the Society’s insight and expertise to help explore solutions with the Prime Minister and his relevant ministers.
Vinnies welcomes extension of JobKeeper payments but questions equity – The St Vincent de Paul Society’s National Council has welcomed the extension of the JobSeeker and JobKeeper programs by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg as they delivered their economic update, but warned that the principles of equity and fairness must not be put to one side in the face of this economic crisis.
♦ Read the media release here.