FORGOTTEN GROUP: COTA argues that older people on Newstart are missing out.
FORGOTTEN GROUP: COTA argues that older people on Newstart are missing out. Contributed

Push to help 4080 Bundy unemployed by raising Newstart

WITH more than 10,000 of Hinkler's older residents set for a major financial boost after the government announced cuts to deeming rates, concerns have been raised about the plight of Bundaberg's unemployed.

Current statistics from the Department of Social Services show 4080 Bundaberg residents are on Newstart.

The Council on the Ageing is pushing for payments to Newstart recipients to be increased by $150 each fortnight, but the Federal Government is firm in its stance.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told national media on the weekend the reason the Newstart rate - less than $40 a day - would remain the same stemmed from the fact that "two-thirds of people on Newstart move on to a job within 12 months”.

For a single person paying rent, the maximum Newstart allowance is $555 per fortnight.

The Treasurer argues though that "99 per cent of (them) receive other benefits”.

The latest Department of Social Services demographics report show the nationwide average of a recipient's duration of Newstart is three years, the seventh longest duration of 15 payment types.

Of the 376,000 people entered onto Newstart in 2017, only 63 per cent exited the payment plan within 12 months.

Supporters of the move to increase Newstart argue that many older Australians on the payment, who do not yet qualify for the aged pension, are being locked into the difficult position of receiving less money than those on the pension but also not having the same opportunities as younger people on Newstart.

The maximum payment of $555 per fortnight leaves single people on Newstart with just over $14,000 per year, officially classing recipients as being in deep poverty until such time as they gain employment.

Hinkler MP Keith Pitt said the Newstart payments were meant to be a temporary helping hand to those looking for work rather than a long-term financial solution.

"There are a range of government-funded programs to help get people into work, but ultimately, the best form of welfare is a job,” Mr Pitt said.

With such a high rate of unemployment, many residents in the Wide Bay region have been living on Newstart for months, just a few thousand of the more than 720,000 on the benefit scheme nationwide.

Mr Pitt acknowleged the region's unemployment rate as "unacceptably high”.

But he said job-creating projects like Bundaberg Brewed Drinks' new super brewery and LifeFlight's new aeromedical facility were helping provide opportunities.

"The unemployment rate in the Wide Bay statistical region has been unacceptably high, but there has been some downward movement in recent months and I hope that continues,” he said.



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