Northern Territory Council of Social Service

Media Release: ‘Welcome Relief’ As Jobseeker Payments Doubled

Sunday 22 March, 2020: Today’s announcement of an increase of $550 per fortnight for six months for many groups receiving government assistance is critically important and will provide welcome relief for so many Territorians who are doing it tough.

The temporary payment to both existing and new recipients of the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance JobSeeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit for the next six months will be crucial in the face of great uncertainty as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hits Australia.

NTCOSS CEO Deborah Di Natale said:

“Today’s stimulus package announcement of an extra $550 per fortnight will provide welcome relief for Territorians who have been doing it tough.

“For the approximately 16,000 Territorians living below the poverty line on $40 per day on Newstart and Youth Allowance payments (now referred to as Jobseeker payments) this will mean they can afford essential items and services such as food, rent and clothing.

“We welcome the moves by the Federal Government to streamline applications and criteria for receiving new and ongoing payments and look forward to receiving more news about how this will work practically moving forward.

“What we need is to provide a permanent safety net that provides adequate support for people in all times, not just times of crisis, and we’re hopeful the Federal Government will recognise this when this six months ends.

“In NT we have the deepest poverty rates, with nearly 45 per cent of all Aboriginal households living below the poverty line.

We note that there are still groups that need attention in future rounds, including students who are not eligible for Jobseeker payments, pensioners who rent and asylum seekers, who have not been targeted in any measures so far.

“We are also urging the government to give stimulus measures to recipients of the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) and Basic Card without quarantining.”

Australian Council of Social Service CEO Cassandra Goldie said:

“We welcome this crucial doubling of Newstart and Youth Allowance for six months. Whilst we would never chose the circumstances under which these events are occurring, now more than ever, today’s announcement is important recognition that our safety net needs to be safe for everyone who needs it.

“This will come as a huge relief to so many right now. This increase is vital in order to prevent more people from falling into the poverty trap.

“We thank all of those on Newstart and Youth Allowance who have been sharing publicly how hard it is to get by on $40 a day. They demonstrated that the existing social safety net was broken.

“The Government has finally listened to people on Newstart, Youth Allowance and many other voices, who have long called for these payments to be lifted, after 26 years without a real increase.

“Just as $40 a day is not enough for people who lose their jobs now because of this crisis, it’s not enough for those who will continue to struggle to find paid work once this crisis subsides.

“Whether people lose work due to coronavirus, bushfires, or simply because there is not enough jobs available at any time, we need a social safety net that works for all, at all times.

Deborah Di Natale, NTCOSS CEO is available for interview.

For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact Shaun Brockman, Policy, Advocacy and Communication Officer on 0411 039 429, or send an email to shaun@ntcoss.org.au.