Rise in government support payments needed: SACOSS

Alarming: The rate of poverty in regional South Australia is double that of the city and surrounds.

Alarming: The rate of poverty in regional South Australia is double that of the city and surrounds.

As the federal inquiry into the level of Newstart and other income support payments continues, the gap between the cost of living and the subisidies also continues to grow.

According to the South Australian Council of Social Service 2018-19 annual report released last week, the rate of poverty in regional and rural South Australia is double that of Adelaide.

The report stated that as part of its research SACOSS had tackled unused ABS data to establish a new poverty line for South Australia.

It was reported that the organisation discovered that 65,000 households, incorporating 132,000 people, were living below the poverty line and that 64 per cent of those relied on government pensions and benefits as the major source of income.

Chief executive officer Ross Womersley said government allowances had not increased in real terms in over 25 years which is why SACOSS was asking the Federal Government for a rise of at least $75 a week. He said the increased payments would not only benefit the person receiving the funding.

"One of the best things that could help is for the federal government to increase the rate of Newstart because we know that every dollar of that increase is likely to be spent - mostly in the local region the person lives in," he said.

"Because of the sometimes higher rates of unemployment in regional SA we know that not only would those people struggling to find work and relying on Newstart to survive be able to access many of the basics again (such as food, medicine etc) they would be in a better position to put themselves forward if the opportunity for work came along, such as put petrol in the car, buy a uniform.

"...This would be a very quick way to boost the local economy and probably even drive jobs growth thus driving down the number of people relying on income support payments."

SACOSS has also launched a report entitled Working to Make Ends Meet, which focuses on 'waged poor' households.

"This report shows that a wage is not always enough to get by, particularly if you have a single income and a large family, you can't get enough work, or the hours are variable, or you can't work more hours because you are caring for the kids," Mr Womersley said.

"If you're paid for 38 hours one week, then only offered three hours the next - how are you supposed to pay your bills?

"Simply, you can't. And if you need petrol to get work, and the electricity bill is due - how do you make that choice?"

He also suggested people visit https://theconversation.com/5-charts-on-what-a-newstart-recipient-really-looks-like-125937 to discover more details about the 'average' person who was accessing the Newstart allowance.

"Don't forget the average Newstart recipient is not particularly likely to be young, they are not especially likely to be men, and more live in regional areas than we might expect," he said.

Helping Hand

The State Government has launched a new website which is designed to help South Australians find a number of initiatives to help keep down living costs.

Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink said the Better Budgets webpage would go a long way to ensure people were getting the best services and deals available in everything from energy and water bills to sports vouchers and school fees.

"For example, the new Better Budgets website leads people to a Federal Government website called 'Energy Made Easy' which helps all South Australians decipher whether they are on the best energy and gas deals in the market," she said.

Resources includes:

  • Energy and water - how to shop around for an energy deal or lower water usage
  • Housing - accessing private rental assistance or HomeStart finance
  • Education - help with school fees or travel allowances
  • Transport - accessing taxi fare subsidies or concessions
  • Money management - preparing for retirement or help in managing debt
  • Health - Shopping for private health insurance or access government funded aged care services.

Better Budgets website at www.sa.gov.au/betterbudgets

To view the SACOSS report visit www.sacoss.org.au