Here’s How Our Government Can Help People Through Coronavirus
Wednesday 25 March 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is pushing more Australians into unemployment, housing stress and poverty – and Vinnies is raising our voice alongside other charities and advocates, to ensure that the social safety net rises to catch them.
Last week we saw a significant win: following years of sustained advocacy from just about everyone in the social welfare sector, the Federal Government finally agreed to #RaiseTheRate. During the COVID-19 outbreak, the Jobseeker Payment (formerly known as Newstart), Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy, and the Parenting Payment will each be boosted by $550 per fortnight.
It’s a long-overdue concession that the previous rate of income support payments was never adequate, and that no one should be expected to live on $40 per day.
At Vinnies NSW, we are celebrating what this means for the tens of thousands of people living in poverty who we help each year.
Don’t forget those left behind by the rate increase
But there is still work to be done: in this rate increase, people on the Disability Support Pension and Age Pension have been left behind, even though their health is likely to be particularly at risk during this pandemic.
And people seeking asylum, particularly those who have already lost access to financial assistance under the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) payment, are again left out of the picture. It’s hard enough for them to survive day-to-day with little to no income, forced to rely on charities (which are themselves feeling the strain of demand due to COVID-19). Dealing with this lack of support during the coronavirus pandemic would force many families into homelessness.
For those who are eligible for the rate increase, the additional $550 per fortnight is set to be introduced from late April, and to last for six months only. We’re already seeing hundreds of families that have run out of food and other essentials – and if these payments are later taken away, they will be left struggling again. Governments must step up now and support the provision of emergency relief so that households can continue to access the basics. And the rate must remain at a level that supports all people to live with dignity above the poverty line.
No evictions, no disconnections
Close to a million people in Australia have already lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus. With a sudden and unexpected loss of income, many will become unable to pay their rent, mortgage and utility bills.
Alongside 100 social service providers and organisations, we are calling on all federal, state and territory governments to ensure no one is evicted from their home during this crisis.
At a time where people need to remain at a safe distance to prevent the spread of the virus, it would risk the health of millions to kick people out of their homes. And on principle, no one should ever be made homeless – least of all during a pandemic.
Putting an immediate moratorium on evictions is a vital and necessary measure that in the words of Martin Luther King Jr must be “confronted with the fierce urgency of now”.
We are also advocating behind the scenes to stop disconnections from energy and electricity for those who fall behind on their bills. We are calling on utility providers to waive penalty and late payment fees, and broaden access to hardship supports.
If you need help – or want to help
For people who are struggling during this time – we are here to assist. You can call us on 13 18 12 and know that you have not been forgotten.
If you are able to volunteer, please sign up at www.vinnies.org.au/kindnessrevolution. If you have the ability to donate, we could really use your contribution right now. Please visit www.vinnies.org.au or call 13 18 12. Thank you.