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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Canberrans on JobSeeker struggle to pay for food

The removal of the Coronavirus Supplement, effective today, is set to push people on JobSeeker “deeper into poverty”, according to ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS) CEO Dr Emma Campbell.

The cuts affect over 10,000 Canberrans on JobSeeker and 9,000 Canberrans receiving other types of income support payments.

“Despite an increase in the base rate of JobSeeker, the removal of the Coronavirus Supplement effectively represents a $100 per fortnight cut,” she said.

“This leaves Canberrans on Jobseeker with just $312 per week for essentials of life such as housing, food, transport and medical expenses.

“This is $145 below the poverty line – $457 per week for a single person – and well below the amount needed to survive in a city with high costs of living.”

The local branch of Anglicare, representing NSW South, NSW West and ACT, is in urgent need of food donations.

Anglicare services such as St John’s Care and Gordon Community Centre saw a surge in demand for emergency food relief as early as last Wednesday, 24 March.

St John’s Care executive officer Jason Haines said his service was helping around 20 families per day, and it only had enough food to last “the next couple of months”.

“A number of people accessing our service are really mentally unwell and stressed out by the thought of government supports reducing so significantly,” Mr Haines said.

“We’ve even been taking phone calls from people who are feeling suicidal – it’s really heartbreaking.”

Gordon Community Centre manager Laura Dawson said the south Canberra service was feeding 10 to 14 families per day with emergency food from its community pantry, which relied on donations.

“The need will be increasing into winter as costs of heating and winter clothing affect tight family budgets,” Ms Dawson said.

Today an Anglicare spokesperson told Canberra Weekly the past week’s donations would help for “another couple of weeks, maybe three”.

“We have had some responses but we need more,” they said. “Demand is going up.”

If you are in crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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