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The Australian Council of Social Service has found that eighty-five percent of people receiving some form of income support are locked out of receiving any extra Covid Disaster Payment, pushing people on the lowest incomes to the brink of their ability to survive.

ACOSS released the latest update of its ‘Living in Lockdown’ survey, which finds that almost all of the 216 respondents (96%) were seriously struggling with the cost of living and almost half (41.5%) were at risk of homelessness because of the high cost of housing.

“Compared with last year when everyone receiving unemployment and related payments was provided extra support, this year more than 80% are seriously struggling to survive,” said ACOSS Program Director – Social Security, Charmaine Crowe.

“When people can’t afford to cover basic costs like food, rent, electricity, medicine and public transport, they find it harder to travel to get vaccinated and are more exposed to the risk of COVID-19,” said Ms Crowe.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:

“The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that there were four times as many deaths from COVID-19 in the lowest socio-economic group (which includes most people on social security payments) compared with the highest socio-economic group. It is unconscionable to leave behind people who most need support.

“Even the OECD is recommending that Australia lift our appallingly low level of unemployment payment – at $44 a day it’s the very lowest rate of all comparable countries. People on Youth Allowance and Austudy are at an even lower rate of $36 a day.

“The Federal Government must urgently extend Disaster Payments to all people on social security or without other incomes including those on temporary visas. As soon as Parliament is recalled, it must pass legislation to lift social security payments to above the poverty line including JobSeeker, Commonwealth Rent Assistance and family payments.”

“The biggest stress people on low incomes face is housing costs – with the highest rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance for a single person without children at just $70 a week when people in Sydney can’t find rental properties for less than $340 a week (and up to $540 a week in the city).

“ACOSS urges the Federal Government to increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance by at least 50% to better support people afford private rentals.”

Living in Lockdown – Key Findings:

  • 96% are struggling with living costs
  • 85% are ineligible for the COVID disaster payments
  • 41.5% are at risk of homelessness
  • 40% feel less safe

Key Recommendations

  1. Immediately extend COVID Disaster Payments to lift incomes for all people without paid work to at least $600 per week, including those in receipt of social security and those without any other income source at all.
  2. As soon as Parliament resumes in August, pass legislation lifting working-age income support payments (JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, parenting payments and related income support) to the pension rate, which is just above the poverty line (at least $475pw for the single rate). See further below for increases to supplements needed for specific groups.
  3. Index all income support payments twice per year in line with wage growth as well as prices.
  4. Extend income support to all affected by inadequate paid work, including people on temporary visas.
  5. Increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 50%.
  6. Provide supplementary payments for people with disability or illness, and single parents, recognising the additional costs they face.
  7. Invest in social housing to address the critical shortfall of supply.

Download the Locked Out in Lockdown survey report here