The unemployment welfare payment was essentially doubled with a $550 coronavirus supplement in response to the pandemic in April, which is set to be decreased to $250 from 25 September.
However, ACTCOSS CEO Emma Campbell said Australia’s social security system was already flawed and needed to be “fixed for good” before reductions in welfare payments were enacted.
“Instead of cutting $300 per fortnight from millions of people’s already sparse incomes next month, we need Federal Parliament to put in place a permanent, adequate JobSeeker rate, which before the temporary COVID increase had not been increased in over 25 years,” she said.
“The new JobSeeker payment of $560 per week and the new Youth Allowance payment, including the coronavirus supplement, should be kept in place until our social security system is fixed for good so that it keeps people out of poverty.”
Statistics show 2.3 million people nationally will be facing the $300 reduction per fortnight, with 1.1 million children living in homes that will experience the income reduction.
Last month, almost 15,000 Canberrans were on income support payments while looking for work, a figure which has doubled since March.
Ms Campbell said with one job vacancy per every four job seekers in the ACT, reducing income support payments would push more people below the poverty line.
“As well as being a health crisis, this is an unemployment crisis. In the Canberra community, many people are in an impossible situation and we’re hearing from many who are only just able to cover the basics now with the current JobSeeker rate,” she said.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the JobSeeker rate was well below the poverty line. At that time, it was estimated that almost 30,000 people in the ACT were living below the poverty line.
“Without a permanent increase in the rate of JobSeeker and related payments, we could see the poverty rate in the ACT grow by around 25%.”
In a survey carried out by the national network of Councils of Social Services, 90% of the community sector reported changes in their clientele, issues or needs during COVID.
It was also reported around 60% of the community sector experienced an increase in demand for their services.