I write in support of the Australian Council of Social Services’ (ACOSS) Raise the Rate campaign to address disadvantage within the City of Sydney and the broader community, and work towards a more equitable and inclusive City.
Despite our best efforts, widespread disadvantage persists. Sydney is Australia’s least affordable city and homelessness is at unprecedented levels. Since 2020, the City has provided more than $3.3 million in funding and donations to support emergency food relief.
However, more support is needed within the community as cost of living challenges grow.
There is an overwhelming evidence base for the need to lift income support payments to address this disadvantage. Academic research, Senate inquiries, and the huge amount of qualitative research with people living on income support conclude that current income support is insufficient to cover basic living costs.
In 2022, ACOSS surveyed 449 people receiving JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance and parenting payment, and found that these payments are inadequate to cover basic living costs. People reported going without food, electricity, transport, medication, and other essentials to get by. In a country as wealthy as ours, this is indefensible.
Even before the recent cost-of-living crisis, people on income support were struggling to cover basic expenses. In the last 12 months, rents have risen by about 18% and food by about 9%. People on income support are bearing the brunt of these rising costs. We cannot afford to leave those with the least behind.
On behalf of the City of Sydney, I call on the Federal Government to support the following reforms put forward by ACOSS for the May budget.
Adequate and fair payment rates
- Lift income support payments to ensure a minimum level across all working age payments. This will simplify the income support system and make it fairer.
- Commonwealth Rent Assistance should be doubled.
- Introduce a Cost of Disability and Illness Supplement that recognises the additional costs faced by people with disability.
- Introduce a Single Parent Supplement that recognises the added costs of single parenthood.
- Roll universal payments like the Energy Supplement into base rates of income support to simplify the system.
- Index income support payments twice per year to wages as well as prices.
- Ensure all parents receiving income support payments are eligible for childcare subsidies (including additional, transition to work subsidies).
Remove barriers to accessing payments
- The Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period should be reduced to a maximum of six months, as it was when first introduced.
- The Federal Government should ensure access to crisis support and financial assistance for people seeking asylum and temporary migrants who have no other means of assistance.
Establish an independent mechanism to advise on income support payment settings
- Establish an independent statutory Social Security Commission to advise Government and Parliament on income support payment adequacy and other settings over time.
Lord Mayor of Sydney