The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW calls for action on income support to alleviate poverty

16 May 2022

The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW is calling on the next Federal Government to commit to action on income support in response to growing levels of inequality.

With increasing economic pressures widening the disparity in standards of living faced by close to one million people currently living in severe income poverty, the Society is calling for an increase to working age support payments, such as JobSeeker.

“An increase to the base rate of working age income support payments to lift people out of poverty should be the minimum course of action taken by the elected government,” Jack de Groot, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW CEO, said.

“We saw the benefits during the first year of the pandemic of what an effective doubling of the JobSeeker payment made for people struggling to survive day-to-day.

“Overnight, people were able to avoid skipping meals, seek medical treatment and have the certainty to improve their quality of life because of the extra money in their accounts.

“Ideally, an increase of $24 per day would bring working age payments into line with pensions, while a similar increase combined with an additional $30 each week in rent assistance would almost instantly end severe poverty.

“Even a more modest increase of between $10 to $15 per day would lift up to 1 million people out of poverty and could be achieved through minor changes to the capital gains and superannuation tax system,” Mr de Groot said.

In addition to raising the rate of support payments, the Society has continued its call for the establishment of an independent body to advise the government on the equity of the income support system, along with payments being indexed twice a year in line with wage growth and CPI.

The Society is also in favour of an increase to the earnings threshold for income support recipients to increase workplace participation.

“The proposals we are putting forward are modest and necessary to ensure people have an adequate safety net and would also help to alleviate current levels of spending in areas such as health treatment” Paul Burton, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW State Council President, said.

“Income support, as it currently functions, has resulted in an overreliance on charities filling the gaps.

“When income support is paid at below poverty levels, this is not an aberration but a feature of the system.

“The only time during the current electoral term where demand for our assistance declined was when income support was raised.

“We call on all parties to treat this issue with the importance it deserves,” Mr Burton said.

Refer to A Fairer Tax and Welfare System, developed by the Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research and Methods and commissioned by the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council for budget neutral options on how to improve the financial position of people most in need.

Media contact: Lachlan Jones  |  0417 446 430