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ACOSS analysis of new figures from the Department of Social Services shows that as at the end of June there were more than 720,000 people on social security payments in areas across the country that are now in lockdown. This does not include children in families trying to get by on social security payments in lockdown.

An estimated 540,000 of the 720,000 adults in lockdown on social security payments are excluded from the $200 per week disaster payments because they did not have paid work going into the lockdown. This is despite all of them being restricted from trying to find paid work due to the lockdown.

A recent change to the $200 per week disaster payment for people on income support means that people who lost ‘a day’ of paid work that is less than 8 hours, such as a 4-hour shift, could now be eligible. However, this still excludes the estimated three quarters of people on income support who did not have paid work going into the lockdown.

“The focus now needs to be on getting everyone through this crisis, not on debt recovery from those with the least or on arbitrary eligibility criteria for disaster payments,” said Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“For lockdowns to be as effective and as short as possible, we must ensure that people can afford to keep a roof over their head so they can stay at home, as everyone is being urged to do.

“Currently, more than half a million people in lockdown and their children are excluded from the disaster payments because they did not have paid work going into lockdown, despite trying to find it. Now in lockdown, they’re restricted in finding paid work and most are continuing to struggle on the JobSeeker payment, which is just $44 a day.

“The Government must urgently ensure that everyone is living above the poverty line by lifting social security payments. By doing this, we’d be able to reduce the uncertainty and distress of ongoing lockdowns, as well as improve economic stability.

“Last year, the government did the right thing doubling JobSeeker to ensure people had enough to cover the basics so they could stay safe and keep a roof over their head.

“This year, we’ve instead seen the government leave behind people with the very least. People who were trying to find paid work going into lockdown have been completely excluded from disaster support.

“This is bad policy on social, economic and public health fronts.

“While we welcome disaster support being extended to some people on income support who lost paid work due to the lockdowns, people with the least behind them remain excluded,” Dr Goldie said.