• Steph Stephens

We’ve waited too long – Newstart boost backed


The ACT Council of Social Service Inc. (ACTCOSS) has backed calls by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) to raise the rate of Newstart and allowances as part of their Federal Budget submission.


Together with business, regional, health and community groups, ACOSS have been calling for Newstart to be raised for over a decade and in that time the cost of essentials has increased dramatically. In light of steep increases in housing and other necessities, they have updated the call for Newstart to be increased to $95 per week.


According to Dr Emma Campbell, CEO of ACTCOSS, “People on low incomes have been campaigning so long for allowances to meet basic costs of living that we now need a rise of $95 a week just to meet life’s essentials. 


“We have spoken to people about their experiences and what we heard was chilling – people are skipping meals, delaying medical care and live in fear that a crisis event will plunge them into debt.


“The last increase was 25 years ago and a lot has changed – not least the cost of getting by in this city. ACTCOSS’s annual cost of living analysis has found that living costs in the ACT have increased disproportionately for those households that can least afford it.

 

“Cost pressures are growing at a faster rate for low-income households than for those with higher income. Across almost every essential goods and services category, excluding clothing, the CPI for Canberra has increased above the national rate in the past three years.


“Housing CPI increases in the ACT have been significantly higher than national rates over the past three years. Transport is steadily more expensive. Between December 2017 and 2018, fuel prices increased by 14.8%, well above the national increase of 6.7%.


“Energy prices in the ACT have seen some of the most significant increases over the past two years with gas prices increasing in Canberra by 17.8% in the year from December 2016 to December 2017, and by 6.8% from December 2017 to December 2018. Over the same two years electricity prices in Canberra increased by 10.6% and 11.2% respectively.


“Income support needs to respond to the climate extremes we now face here in the ACT and the associated costs of energy and utilities to live safely and comfortably in these extremes. Low-income households in Canberra have no leeway to manage extraordinary situations such as last week’s hailstorm that caused serious damage to homes and cars.


“This week many people in this city will be asking – can I buy a new pair of school shoes for my child, pay the electricity bill or repair the car? We’ve all waited too long, the time for action is now. We hope that the Federal Government steps forward and listens to the growing chorus for change,” Dr Campbell concluded.

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